Abigail Mnookin

Commentator

Abigail Mnookin is a former biology teacher interested in issues of equality and the environment. She is currently organizing parents around climate justice with 350Vermont, and lives in Brattleboro with her wife and their two daughters.

Last weekend, I traveled by bus to Washington D.C. with my 5-year-old daughter to attend the People’s Climate March. In crowds numbering more than 200,000, we marched with 350Vermont, holding a circular parachute banner that read “Vermont stands with climate justice, clean energy, water protectors, courage, workers, and bees.” When my daughter wasn’t running under the parachute, playing games or seeking shade, she was chanting into the megaphone about clean water, justice, and democracy. It was a powerful - and exhausting - weekend of collective action.

One response to the current political climate is that the number of people involved in political organizing and working for social justice throughout the state has increased substantially.

On Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday, the Brattleboro Literary Festival organized a Writers Resist event in solidarity with a nationwide effort spearheaded by PEN America to “re-inaugurate” democracy. Seventeen local authors spoke about their belief in “art and artists’ power and responsibility to resist.” My mother, Wendy Mnookin, and I attended.

I had joined a group of Vermonters who traveled by bus to the Standing Rock Reservation to join in solidarity with indigenous water protectors. Just hours after we arrived, heavily militarized police clashed with unarmed activists on the nearby front lines. Pickup trucks transported the wounded to medic tents; anyone entering had to be decontaminated from tear gas. More than 300 people were injured.

A few weeks ago, my four-year-old daughter and I traveled with other Vermont families to the Pennsylvania shale fields to see for ourselves how hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is impacting the region. We’re part of Mother Up! — 350 Vermont’s campaign to engage parents to take action, both in their own communities and those most affected by the fossil fuel industry.

Four years ago, my wife and I became mothers when I gave birth to our daughter. A few months ago, my wife gave birth to our second child. And this summer, I’m occasionally on call as a birth doula. I’ve become so captivated by birth that I now support other women through this transformation. Plus, studies show doula care brings real benefits, ranging from shorter labors to lower rates of intervention, including fewer cesarean births.

That Saturday, my wife and our two young daughters went to a Pride Family Picnic near our Brattleboro home. It was organized by Green Mountain Crossroads, a regional nonprofit creating community for rural LGBTQ people. We spent a peaceful, misty morning eating potluck food from rainbow-colored plates and swapping stories with other queer families. We felt safe, nurtured, and proud.

The Women’s Film Festival just celebrated its 25th year in Brattleboro. It’s the largest fundraiser for the Women’s Freedom Center, which works to end domestic and sexual violence in Windham and Southern Windsor Counties.

Almost daily, upsetting headlines point to racial inequality throughout the U.S. — from systemic poverty and mass incarceration, to shocking deaths at the hands of police and the war on terror. It’s true that some civil rights have been gained — but we’re a far cry from equality for all.

This has been a boom year for apples in Vermont. Following on the heels of a light crop last year, apples have been abundant in orchards, on family farms, and in backyards. Even crabapple trees were heavily weighted with a bounty of small fruits. It seems that any way you turn, you’ll be rewarded with the bounty of apples.

Apart from a bout with Giardia almost twenty years ago, a woman I know had been active and healthy until 2008, when she experienced severe diarrhea and weight loss. She consulted with countless doctors, none of whom could offer a more specific diagnosis than the broad category of irritable bowel syndrome.

Last month, Pope Francis released an encyclical on climate change, describing it as the moral issue of our time and calling for immediate, global action. The significance of this publication cannot be overstated. The Roman Catholic Church has 1.2 billion followers worldwide; when he talks, lots of people listen.

My family and I recently gave away household items corresponding to the day of the month. One item on the first of the month, two items on the second, through day 30, and totaling 465 items.

We’d been inspired by friends, and were motivated to de-clutter our home. Stuff seems to accumulate when you have a toddler and live in a house with a basement, attic, and shed; it takes intention to clear out.

Vaccines may have been added to the list of topics to avoid at dinner parties, but now is when we really need to discuss it with our friends and families in conversations that are both intelligent and empathetic.

Before my daughter’s first birthday, she climbed to the top of the stairs without my knowing it. One minute, we were downstairs together; next, I heard her but couldn’t locate her. I raced around checking obvious places first - in the shower stall, behind the couch. Panicking, I opened locked cabinets and peered into heating ducts - just in case.

Last month, my two-year-old daughter broke her elbow. She was still strapped into her bike seat when my leg got caught on the dismount, and she came crashing down with the bike.

Hoping to ensure she didn’t have any lasting physical injuries, and feeling more than partly responsible for the accident, I took her to six doctors over the course of the next month.

Abigail Healey

Last week, I was one of more than 2,000 Vermonters who traveled to New York for the People’s Climate March. Spearheaded by Bill McKibben’s 350-dot-org and planned to coincide with the United Nations Climate Summit, 400-thousand people hit the streets of New York calling for climate justice.

Recently, I hiked up to 4200 feet to work as part of the fill-in crew for Greenleaf Hut in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

This beloved annual tradition signals a gathering of “Old Hutsmen” and women, or “OH,” who return to work in the huts so the current crew can take a few communal nights off. The crew relishes this time away, while the OHs appreciate the opportunity to return, work together again and relive past glory days.

Last month, my two-year-old daughter and I stood in a circle of young children admiring a wild turkey pelt. Later, we wandered along the West River, collecting dandelion flowers to turn into fritters, and crouching to examine a robin’s delicate footprint in the soft mud. Groups of older children foraged for fiddlehead ferns and created tinder bundles to start a fire.

Last month, I unknowingly dropped my wallet while carrying my young daughter out of a café in downtown Brattleboro. We’d crossed the street to look for a birthday present for my 91-year-old grandmother, and I didn’t realize my wallet was missing for about ten minutes.

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