A Singular Sloth

Details, I tell my students, bring the poem to life. Recently I saw how details bring life to me.

On my recent trip to Costa Rica, I met Millie, an orphaned sloth. Since she was not raised by her mother, Millie can’t return to the jungle, and thus lives a quiet life swinging from a wicker chair suspended in her well-appointed cage at the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. Along with Millie I met a number of other sloths who had been forced from the safety of the jungle canopy by the interruption of roads and cities. I reached out and touched Millie’s straw-soft fur, bent down to smell her camouflage-subtle scent, looked into her glossy, glassy eyes and smiled as she turned her shiny brown nose ceiling-ward.

Like you, I’ve heard countless calls to save the rainforest. But it was in the moment that my fingers touched this singular sloth that the commitment was sealed.

The details brought the rainforest into my heart – alive and new.

With Apologies to the Rainforest

In my classroom my students think twice about asking me for an extra piece of paper unless they’ve filled both sides of their first piece, or a clean, new sticky note. They know my tirades.


Example: I keep a box of used sticky notes handy, so that if a student wants a note with which to mark a page in a book, or a favorite passage in a long poem, they can take a “used” note.


These young women, for whom hand-me-downs are a source of shame, akin to wearing a sign that says “I can’t afford new,” don’t so much appreciate my zealous environmentalism. Still, I can’t resist.


“Can I have a new sticky note?” a student inevitably asks.


The rest of the students collectively suck in their breath and roll their eyes while they wait for my retort:”Sure,” I say, “you can have a new sticky note if you really want, but in this classroom we’re saving the rain forest one scrap of paper at a time. Do you really want to take a new sticky note and perpetuate the wholesale destruction of the rainforest?”



Truth is I have no idea what impact sticky notes are having on the rainforest in particular. I don’t even know exactly where the rainforest is. I do know that mindlessly using the earth’s resources is not working, and I want to do my part. I want my students to consider doing theirs, as well.


It’s become a bit of a joke; a good-natured way for my students to rib me about my passions and for me to coax them to think twice before squandering the earth’s bounty.


But now, the day is fast approaching. Tomorrow I get on a plane and off I fly to South America (yes, yes, I know, leaving a massive carbon footprint in my wake) … for a vacation on an eco-resort, where I’ll be hiking and kayaking in … the rainforest!


So, I told my students: “For those of you who have been re-using sticky notes and writing on both sides of your papers, I will be sure to send the rainforest your regards and good wishes. As for the rest of you, I will carry your apologies with me and offer them up on your behalf.”


Pura vida …