School was cancelled last week on Tuesday due to an unprecedented reason- air pollution.
I relished in the shiny luck of mother nature dispensing snow days back home while growing up in Minnesota. We’d watch as the snowfall slowly floated down in the evening and then wake up anxiously to see if it was enough for a ‘day off’ from schoolwork and a full day of building forts, sledding down the hill in the backyard, and as I got older, shoveling the driveway for my father.
We started our day back then by shooting out of bed and running down the stairs with the furor usually reserved for Christmas morning. We huddled around the radio as they announced school closures one district at a time.
“Stillwater: closed. Forrest Lake: closed. Minnetonka Falls: closed.” The radio solemnly rolled out.
“I haven’t heard anything yet.” my mother would say wearily because that green light would inevitably impact her workflow at the college and require some amount of child care back on the home front.
“Green lake: closed. Minnehaha falls: closed”
The tension was palpable and we shook with the giddiness of a prospective lottery winner or Vegas gambler before the cards flop.
“Little Canada: closed. Gem lake: closed. Vadnais Heights…….closed.”
“YEESSSS!” We’d shout while scarfing down breakfast to layer up and rush outside with our adventures getting more brazen, elaborate and farther from home as we aged.
My First Air Pollution Day
I didn’t share the same enthusiasm last week when I did as a kid. Our day last week was spent indoors with an Air Quality Index of over 300. The kids at school cheered when they heard the news, but how can you get excited about the sudden realization that air pollution is really ‘a thing’ and has crept up to levels that make breathing hazardous? Will occasional school and work closures be the new normal for us as a species? Many of our friends have left Beijing, Doha and New Dehli for such reasons. Add Seoul to the list.
Lisa and I have seen this in the underwater world through depleted shark populations, and coral bleaching in the most remote of places. I wanted Ava to have an adventure on this year abroad, but part of me knows that this is an opportunity to see the bounties of planet earth: before they’re gone.