Reindeer are real


Today, it’s a funny anecdote. My adult sister and I were texting about Christmas and I can’t remember exactly the thread of the conversation, but she sent me this text:

“I wish reindeer were real.”

“Me too,” I replied. Then, “Hey, wait a minute, reindeer are real!”

Of course she was referring to Santa’s flying reindeer (who if they existed would all be female) but the real reindeer are in danger for the same reason that the bees are dying: climate change. At the beginning of the holiday season, we were subjected to a nonsense kerfluffle over the fact that Starbuck’s disposable coffee cups were plain red this year instead of featuring reindeer and snowflakes. Disposable. Coffee cups. Minus symbols that are pagan in origin. Coffee cups that end up in the floorboard of the car within twenty minutes after purchase.

If those reindeer were really as sacred to the people complaining as they are to the indigenous peoples of Siberia, I wouldn’t be writing this post.

We cherish the symbol and the childhood memory and we’ve mixed it all up with our Judeo-Christian Christmas soup, but the reality evidently doesn’t mean anything to us or we wouldn’t be on the verge of hysteria over coffee cups.

shawnee me snowman0001

Above is my younger reindeer-obsessed sister and me, during a typical winter during our childhood. That’s a huge snowman. And it’s what we expected out of winter every year, and sometime after I turned 11, perhaps 12, winter started dwindling. In the last five years since I returned to North Carolina after living in New York for seven years, I’ve seen winters with only patchy ice or ice storms that took down power lines fade into endless warm seasons. The pollen persists. The fleas persist. My yard is full of sunflower seedlings from the bird feeder instead of snowmen so big that an adult had to set the giant snowballs on top of each other.

It’s supposed to be 71 degrees on Christmas Day.

If people cared about the reindeer that aren’t on the Starbucks cups rolling around on their sticky floormats, they’d stop denying climate change and start taking blame for rising feral cat populations and songbird deaths. That’s right, start taking blame for songbird deaths. “Ornithologists blame the demand for out-of-season fruit and vegetables and other crops in North America and Europe for the destruction of tens of millions of passerine birds.”

It’s the world we created. Let 2016 be the year we relegate junk science to the junk pile and take responsibility for the world that we created. I can’t plant a butterfly garden when my neighbor across the street is spraying chemicals all over his lawn to kill the weeds that might detract from the pesticide-coated pansies his wife bought at the big box store. Reindeer are running out of time in a world artificially heated by the creation of plastics (forks, spoons, coffee stirrers) that couldn’t be made without oil from fossil fuels.

Maybe after people read this, they’ll decide to clean out their cars, dumping the sad red cups, devoid of reindeer, into plastic trash bags in plastic trash cans between gas pumps at convenience stores before they run inside for another cup of coffee.

In a hundred years, perhaps it won’t be a funny anecdote. Did I lose you? That reindeer are real now but beginning to fade, in the world that we’ve created?



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