Why I spent Mother’s Day 200 miles away from my daughter

Kayla Burak with her daughter (Photo courtesy of Kayla Burak)

Kayla Burak with her daughter (Photo courtesy of Kayla Burak)

May 30, 2018 | by Kayla Burak

It was Mother’s Day weekend and I was hundreds of kilometres from my daughter, my back was sore, my hands hurt, but I was happy. I spent the day helping a group of Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) staff and Conservation Volunteers plant 400 trees and shrubs on NCC’s Meeting Lake 03 property in Saskatchewan. Luckily, some of our volunteers were former professional tree planters who were planting five trees for every one tree that I planted. Otherwise, we may have been there planting for two days straight! So why didn’t I just leave the tree planting to the professionals?

Tree planting at Meeting Lake 03 property in Saskatchewan (Photo by NCC)

Tree planting at Meeting Lake 03 property in Saskatchewan (Photo by NCC)

As a new mother, I have a newfound appreciation for the planting of a tree. I can’t think of a more profound experience than the gift of life. The very idea of motherhood is so entangled in the gift of life that it can be hard to separate the two. Planting a tree is a gift of life — to that individual tree, to the ecosystem that the tree supports and to my own child. The tree gives back by providing oxygen to my child.

While my back may have been sore, the thought of how that tree will provide life to my child, and if properly managed, life to her child, gave comfort to my tired hands. That is why I decided to spend my Mother’s Day so far from my child. I knew that when I came home, the world would be a slightly better place for my child to grow up in.

Being a mother means something different to every woman, but my version of motherhood will always be that of a protector. As a protector, it is often tempting to think only of your own child. I have come to realize that to protect my daughter I have to protect the Earth and other children my daughter will grow up with. It is a daunting task, protecting your own child. But protecting the whole world? It can seem impossible. However, as I looked down at my little row of trees, the task seemed a little less daunting.

Digging the hole where the tree will be planted (Photo by NCC)

Digging the hole where the tree will be planted (Photo by NCC)

Motherhood is sometimes about sacrifice and I may have missed my child while away at planting. But if I can give life to my daughter and my little row of trees, then maybe humanity will be able to preserve the life in the forests and oceans that I want my daughter to grow up in.

As any good naturalist knows, a mother bird has to eventually push her young from the nest, and I eventually will have to do the same. I won’t be able to protect my daughter forever, but I hope that I will be able to leave a world to her that is just a little more friendly, loving and natural than it otherwise would have been.

I love nature and I hope my daughter will as well. Conservation goes beyond just enjoying nature ― it means life, sustainable life, for my children. As a mother, the sacrifice of being away from my daughter seems small when I consider the gift of life and hope that I found while planting those trees. That is why I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Mother’s Day than with a sore back.

At just over a year old, my daughter isn’t going to remember this past Mother’s Day, but it won’t be long before she will be able to. I hope that the two of us can preserve the tradition that I have started this year and spend future Mother’s Days outdoors preserving what I love — my daughter’s future.

This story was written by Logan Salm, as told by Kayla Burak.

Kayla Burak (Photo courtesy of Kayla Burak)

About the Author

Kayla Burak is the engagement manager for the Nature Conservancy of Canada's Saskatchewan region.

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