Climate Anxiety Counseling: An Open Letter to my Friend

Dear ________,

Last night, before we made our way to our various homes, you said, “It’s too warm.” It was a little damp, no bite in the air.

I said, “I know, I hate it.”

You said, “My birthday’s October 21st, and ten days later is Halloween, and I know the leaves are off the trees by then. It’s never like this–” indicating the maple sapling outside our third friend’s house. “But it’s like this later and later every year. To be able to see that, just over the past ten years– Sorry to end the night on a bad note.”

I said it was okay, and we got in our cars. On my way home, I thought about last year, when we had dinner together and I cried into my food. You said then, “Climate change for me is something I can’t think about. It’s like the deaths of my children–my mind just avoids it.” So something else has changed between now and then–you’ve changed something in yourself, and you can talk about it now, at least a little.

Not everyone pays attention to soil bacteria or wetland ecosystems or even notices whether the trees around them are sick or healthy, especially in cities where our contact with the nonhuman world is often curtailed and sometimes aggressive. But seasons are one way the world tells us about itself that almost everyone can hear. We recognize them on our skins and in our noses; our moods shift as they roll over us. We notice when they change, and when their nature, their quality, changes.

If we can think about it we can talk about it. If we can talk about it, we can help each other figure out what to do as it unfolds. You can always talk to me about the climate and about the world; you don’t ever have to apologize. If all that’s left is for us to cry together, we’ll do that.

I love you,