When I was a little girl I was easily upset by people disrupting nature. 

I remember one day being distressed when my Opa was sawing down a tree in our backyard. “It’ll be hurting,” I tried to explain. I remember water seeping from the trunk as it was sliced into, and in my six-year-old eyes it was the tree’s tears, rolling down in pain. I couldn’t understand it; Opa loved his flowers, adored his garden. How could he kill this tree with no remorse?

Whenever we went on holidays and therefore long car trips, my parents had to distract me whenever a logging truck went past. I would genuinely become so upset I’d just cry and cry. “The poor trees!” I’d sob. It would take a lengthy period to calm me down should I catch sight of one of the carriers. (Not fun to be confined in a car with, I can tell you). Hank would try to explain that they were being taken to build houses and make paper for humans, where I would get enraged. “That’s so selfish!” I would passionately protest. (I think this was when the worries of me becoming a full on ethereal hippie first took seed). 


When I was three we went to Auckland and Deb treated us with a trip to Kelly Tarltons. If you’ve ever been on the rad cart through the penguin enclosure, you’d have seen the horrendous Killer Whale that comes up with a seal clasped in it’s jaw. Blatantly plastic, blatantly fake, I got into such a state that I had to be escorted out of the building. 


And when the tree atop One Tree Hill got chopped down? I had to stay home from school for the day I was so inconsolable. I kept all newspaper article cuttings of the event and put them in a shoebox in my wardrobe, like a little coffin. Hank tried to explain that the tree was old, feeble and dangerous, but I was having none of it; those who axed it down were murderers. 

One weekend when I was about ten I had a friend called Dani to stay. We were playing out by the pool, when I saw her bent intently over something by the bush. I went over to inspect (nosy from the get go ’twas I), where I saw her slowly ripping the wing off a Monarch Butterfly. I remember so clearly the blind rage I had for Dani; I screamed at her, cupped the butterfly and ran to the park down the street to set it free. 

I never spoke to Dani again.
I have countless more memories of similiar occurrences involving sparrows, flowers, Daddy Long Legs (I would always find them in the shower and rescue them, rehoming them in the garden in an emergency nudey run) and especially trees. In my mind any squashing of bugs or picking of plants was torture. I couldn’t watch horse racing because the whipping would make me cry, and the Andre the Seal movie? I think the neighbours almost called the police with the screaming resounding from our house. And don’t even get me started on The Hunchback of Notre Dame (poor, poor, poor Quazimodo). 

I don’t know when I grew out of it. Maybe incrementally as years went by. Maybe one day I let a Daddy Long Legs drown down the gurgler as my mind was caught up on new interests, like boys and when I would be allowed to shave my legs. I hadn’t thought about the loss of this, shall we say, slightly ridiculous distress until this morning. 

I was doing the Yogic Food sequence, where you move from cobra to mountain pose and back again over and over. I didn’t see the ant until I was already on my way down to the mat with force. I shut my eyes in panic as I rose back up, but the little fella had been completely dessimatted by the avalanche of my shoulder.


I could’ve cried. I truly could’ve cried. And then, when a procession of his brothers and sisters obviously heard the news of their crushed companion came and carried him away, I honestly did get a tad teary. My heart went out to this poor little creature. 

I’ve been feeling sad all day. My thoughts keep turning back to the ant. I feel so guilty. It must seem so stupid; shit I feel stupid. But I’m just a little bit heartbroken.

But then I suddenly had a moment of pure clarity and joy; is the young, innocent Poppy, who cared so much about every living thing regardless of size or placement in the animal kingdom, maybe coming back? Are my childish woes stemming from empathy and compassion blooming again? It’s a really beautiful and tranquilising thought. 

Obviously I wouldn’t want to be at the extent of my seven-year-old self; I can’t imagine throwing myself on the ground and balling my fists in a tantrum whenever a cockroach is crushed will go down too well. Or staging a sit-in whenever Hank attempts to mow the lawns. But that little pang of sorrow that may rear in such circumstances? 
I’d like that. I’d like that a lot.

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