Why Remains Suspended

Have  you heard Libby Kirkpatrick’s song To A Child? If you haven’t, please go download your 99 cent copy off of iTunes right now!  Better yet, go get yourself a copy of her entire album Goodnight Venus. Really. You’re missing out on a melodic, lyrical genius if you haven’t fully discovered her yet.

Libby is one of my closest friends in Austin. She joined me on the Sweet Songs project, contributing two brilliant songs.  I’m listening to her music a lot this week in my head yearning for her return from Boston where she’s been spending the summer with her family.

The past few days I’ve been lingering on her lyric “There is no answer to why — why remains suspended….” in To A Child.  I have floated in and out of my share of existential Why’s most of my adult life. Only within the last few years have I learned to stop myself and change the question. Because most of the time when I’m asking a Why question, it doesn’t take me anywhere useful mentally.

On the other hand, the Why’s for a developing mind are a critical part of learning and growing and remaining curious about this strange life we all live.  I hope to encourage my girls’ comfort in asking, “Why?” throughout their childhoods — and when they’re older and start to ask questions like,”Why can’t I figure this out?” or  “Why doesn’t he like me?” I’ll need to get creative and gently guide them to try asking a different question.  Like, “What information am I missing that could help me understand this better?”  and “What’s important to me in a relationship?” or “What do I stand for that is different than what he or she stands for?”

For now, I can enjoy the sweet innocence in the Why’s that come from my 3, almost 4 year-old. Rarely easy questions though. Some recent keep-me-on-my-feet Why moments from her:

Mama, why does that little boy only have two fingers?

Because he’s special.

Why is he special?

He was born with a body different from most other people and that makes him special.

Mama, why is that man standing in the rain with that sign?

He is asking other people to help him to buy food.


Well, he has a hard time working to make money and buy his own food and he’s hungry.


Why does he have a hard time working?


I don’t know.  A lot of people have a hard time working for a lot of different reasons and I don’t know what his reason is.


And most recently along the Barton Creek Green Belt:

Mama, why is there trash here?

(Indeed. Why? Why?!)

I wanted to say, “Because some jack asses left it who don’t care about the impact to the land or to others.”  I could only come back with:  “When someone leaves their trash somewhere other than a trash can, this is called ‘Littering’ and it’s NOT o.k.”

When we came across this seemingly sweet little area of the Green Belt on Saturday as a place to stop on our walk with the girls and let them dip their feet in the water, I was saddened and angered to find trash everywhere.  And I got on my snobby Boulder Chic rant and said to my husband, “This is unbelievable!  You would never, ever see this anywhere along Boulder Creek. Ever!”

So what’s up with the “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign?  WHY do I see trash alongside and in the waters of Town Lake every time I walk the trail?  Why?  What do we need to do as a community to foster more ubiquitous respect for our shared natural spaces?  My sweet Mark, who earned the nick name “Electric Mark” in his late teen years during one of his first jobs, offered the brilliant answer that served as a wonderful modeling moment for our girls that pulled me out of my judging rant that was getting us nowhere.

“We should plan to always have a trash bag with us when we go on big family walks together and just do our part to clean up the mess.”  And in his delightfully rapid-fire way, he proceeded to pick up all the trash that surrounded the area and collect it on a nasty towel someone left behind. He gathered the corners together and created a sack to carry it all out to the dumpster at the trail head.

The walk back with 2 girls in wet swim suits (sans stroller) that didn’t feel like walking any more, and Mark with a big load of trash created our Entertain the Tots challenge du jour.  The game quickly became about finding something compelling along the trail for them to discover, see, and/or touch every 10 yards to distract them from their discomfort and deep desire to be held by me at the same time. A year ago, maybe. Now with Tiny Izzers finally at 20 pounds and Sadie somewhere between 30 and 35, I’m not generally up for the double carry for very long.

We made it — and thanks to Mark — taught the girls that when you come across something that ain’t right, do something about it.

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