Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. I can’t believe it’s been 50 years since Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson dreamt up the first Earth Day. As a matter of fact, I had no idea how much the day meant to me until I woke up and the memes, posts and news stories conjured up so many memories.
As a kid in Chicago in the early to mid-eighties I remember planting seedlings on this day (often the seedlings would double as a Mother’s Day gift), I remember going outside and picking up litter around our playground. I remember learning about Sen. Nelson from Wisconsin. (At about the same age – I remember being a card carrying member of Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no club” – I got the tshirt!)
I remember this day being exciting, empowering as a kid. Maybe it was because we got to be outside on the playground or planting those seedlings – fingers in the dirt? Maybe it was the collective pause in just enjoying the outdoors? Spring is certainly illusive in our parts – sun today, snow tomorrow kinda illusive. There was all this hope on teacher’s faces, on my parents faces, on adults all around. It seemed universal – who could dislike Earth Day? There was an underlying unity in saying thank you to this earth, our planet, our beautiful Pachamama that sustains so much abuse from us. But, here she was nurturing. It was almost as though the Earth could feel us trying, trying to do better.
Earth day reminds me of all those little things my dad preached throughout my childhood. His utter love for this Earth of ours. Sure there was the recycling, shaming litterbugs, growing a garden (and subsequently RAVING about how much better the homegrown veg tasted) repurposing items ( the man was upcycling long before it was cool). But it will always remind me of the way he loved a big old tree and it’s far reaching canopy and ability to protect. The way he shuffled in an almost full on skip when a tree seedling needed to be planted. The man couldn’t wait to get it in the ground and marvel at what this beautiful tree would look like in 5 years, 10 years…For a city kid, the guy always had a respect and love for nature and all things wild. Maybe his city upbringing is what allowed him to thoroughly love and respect the pristine, clean water we got to swim in Wisconsin? Or maybe it was the kaleidoscope of stars that were unveiled at the end of the pier on Berry Lake – a whole universe not accessible under the bright city lights? Whatever it was – I am thankful.
Happy 50th Earth Day. All I can ask is that the day continues to inspire hope amidst the chaos. The hope of doing better, the hope to keep trying, the hope of respecting this highly remarkable Mother Earth, this beautiful, forgiving Pachamama.
“If you think you’re too small to make a difference…try sleeping with a mosquito in the room” – Dalai Lama