written by Raulla S. Mitchell
“To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.” Jane Austen
Earth Day is next week. How do YOU celebrate Earth Day?
I don’t mean how should you celebrate it, because you can celebrate it anyway you want (no normative framework around this) but I’m interested, because there seem to be infinite ways to celebrate a day all about the planet on which we live, and conversely, without which, we couldn’t live, at least not yet, and certainly not in the same manner.
I saw part of the film “The Martian” while my daughter was watching it on Netflix, and I have to say, Mars is not for me.
The verdant landscapes, trees with abundant leaves, and flowers in bloom this spring hold the potential to transform our spirits. In the midwest, we know this all too well, especially these last few years, in light of, dare I say it, global warming. I think I can dare. It’s pretty clear that it’s arrived, and now we’re in the rush to figure out what to do to prevent more drastic consequences of our collective actions over generations.
In Minnesota, we deal daily with temperature and climate pendulum swings. Is it spring, is it winter, is it spring, is it winter…? Mushy snow that melts nearly on contact with the pavement mid-April leaves us asking and waiting to change our closets and unveil our charming (let’s hope so) personalities to our neighbors.
We’re left with empirical knowledge and faith, knowing and believing that spring will come, as it always does. We can leap from freezing winter temps, wind chills that threaten to push down my heavy Volvo trunk on top of my head while reaching for my purse inside (yeah, that’s right it did just that, and it was as frightening and painful as you might imagine when it happened at Costco), and a slippery mess of a rain-snow mix to 70 degrees the next day.
It can also feel a little like “En attendant Godot”, waiting for Godot or Mother Nature to brighten our yards and our spirits. Come on Mother Nature, please hurry on over to Minnesota with your powerful feminine charms, we want to see our tulips and irises popping up! I’d even be immensely grateful for a hosta or two along the boulder wall and by the mailbox. I’ve been staring at colorful silk flowers in pots outside my front door all winter, because I can’t bear life without color. Still, I don’t for a sec believe they’re real, and I’m sooooo….ready for flowers that grow in the earth!
Nature’s seasonal transitions (whenever they arrive) offer us the eternal gift of rejuvenation. They touch and inspire us wherever we exist on the planet we share, and we pass her beauty on to the next generation. Celebrating Mother Earth’s gifts renews us in mind, body and spirit, and reminds us to respect her generosity, grateful in our thoughts, words and deeds. Yes, let’s remember to be grateful.
Here are just a few ways to celebrate Earth Day this year
- Plant a tree in your yard. Name it after a beloved family member or pet. Everyday you look at the tree, your thoughts will extend to the deep love you feel for living beings with whom you share your life. My parents planted a tree in their front yard to celebrate the birthday of each of their three grandchildren. They no longer reside at this house, but the beautiful trees are passed on as gifts to the new young family and their children who will play tag and hide-and-go-seek around their trunks, or sit under their branches, writing or painting in their journals or making music on a sunny day. Their parents are musicians, so I imagine the children holding an outdoor concert amidst the trees my parents planted.
- Give of your time, or make a charitable donation to plant a tree at an arboretum, or in an area ravaged by war or environmental disaster, where trees and green plants may have been destroyed. Planting a tree is a spiritual thing that uplifts us all. Wangari Maathai, Mother Tree of Africa had a spiritual experience when she realized that her beloved fig tree in Kenya supported so much more than just itself. Her Nobel Prize winning work organizing women to collaborate to plant trees supports an ongoing flourishing of the greater environment, including rivers and streams, and all living things. She has changed lives around the world, and it all started with one tree. Google Wangari Maathai, and see how you can help her mission to plant trees anywhere in the world that holds special meaning for you.
- Support Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops planting trees that beautify our world and make our environment cleaner and healthier for all. The badges they earn are merely remembrances of the happy times they shared planting something that would grow with loving care for generations to come. It’s a beautiful thing to collaborate with others to make the world greener, cleaner, and more beautiful.
- Walk in the woods, nature area, or around your neighborhood. Enjoy the earth’s splendor, the spring flora and fauna rejoicing in unison with you. Feel happy being a part of nature.
- We just returned from a spring break family holiday to South Dakota’s Black Hills and the Badlands. Gorgeous! There’s definitely something intrinsically spiritual about the Badlands, and nothing bad about it at all, just the opposite – it’s incredibly beautiful and easy to imagine the earth speaking in a language I’d never heard before. I read about the ways in which the Native American cultures conversed with Mother Earth, and I wished I could do the same. It felt possible in the Badlands, more so than in downtown Minneapolis. What I love about nature is that it feels so much easier to feel spiritually connected to the universe, God, whatever is most sacred to you than when in an urban man-made environment. The contrast between the city and open plains and earth is amazing to me. I love them both. I’ll always be a city-suburb girl who can’t wait to get to open expanses of land. It’s complex.
- Feel the ground beneath your feet, sacred Mother Earth, the Great Spirit, whatever you call earth. Experience the way it feels to walk (maybe barefoot) on the earth. I cannot imagine that this would leave you untouched. Feel connected not only to nature but to the spirits of those who walked before you, animals and humans on this land, each with their own journey. You know that feeling when you walk down the streets of a city or town that’s been around for hundreds of years, you can almost feel the souls of those who walked the same streets ages ago. If you’ve experienced this, and then go to a city where everything has been rebuilt and is relatively new, you miss the old souls, and your connection to them. In the Badlands of South Dakota, I wanted to feel the souls of the buffalo, deer, wolves,…(every creature except the dinosaurs) running free and wild. It would take several times, at different times of the day and at different seasons, but I wonder if I could feel them, given more time on their land.
- “Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars…and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole of existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy.” Osho (1931-1990, India) We all want to get out of our houses and go for a stroll, chat it up with neighbors we haven’t seen over the winter, and soak up happy feel-good sunshine.
- This afternoon, my dog wiggled out of his harness (okay, it wasn’t hooked up properly in a hurry to get him outside), and ran around our neighborhood just long enough for three neighbors to come out and chat. Thank you Sugar (my dog) for getting me outside to chat it up after a too long winter! Just what I needed, and thought I didn’t have time for!
- In an urban area, find a quiet park, and go for a stroll. Listen to the birds singing and children at play. Feed the pigeons. Read a book. Write or sketch in your journal. Take photos of life around you.
- Bring green inside with houseplants and herb gardens. Growing fresh herbs adds delicious flavor to your cuisine (and hey, you can take the credit for the rave reviews of your beautifully seasoned dishes – there’s nothing quite like fresh herbs for aroma and taste), and may be used for medicinal purposes. Freshly grown herbs can keep us healthy!
- If you’d love to start growing green things, but worry that you lack a green thumb, start with a sturdy plant that requires little care, and gives color, aroma, and texture to a room. Even if you’ve let a yucca plant wither in the past (yes, yours truly, High School Biology I project which I gave to my neighbor across the street only to see it later thriving in their living room, several feet higher), there’s still hope. That’s one of the amazing things about growing plants, they share their forgiveness and eternal optimism with you. Speak with a horticulturalist for advice on which types of plants will thrive in your climate and soil. Ask a neighbor for help. Gardeners usually love sharing their knowledge with neophytes, and you’ll get some of the best advice and encouragement.
- Peruse on-line or mail order garden catalogs. Design a new garden this spring. Even if you’ve never done it before, it’s hard to go wrong as long as you select plants and flowers that will grow in your soil and yard, given conditions such as sunlight and shade.
- If deer seem to eat everything the day after you plant (we have a growing family of deer, 7 or so who think our back yard is the comfiest place to bed down for the night, and grab a quick breakfast, lunch and dinner from our hosta, irises, tulips, and variety of shrubs), research plants they don’t really love, or ask about non-toxic herbs that deer find sufficiently unappealing to consume. I love to see my majestic deer family in my yard, would never dream of doing anything to hurt them (they’re a family), and don’t mind them eating some of my plants and shrubs, but ALL of them is a different story.
- Play with color waves of flowers, or mix them all together. Experiment with your favorite colors or ones that match your outdoor decor.
- Beautiful hanging baskets or flowers in large planters instantly add color and beauty to the outside of your home. Caring for green things adds spiritual beauty to your life as well as aesthetic charm to your environment.
- Don’t have a garden of your own? Chat with a friend who has extra space but maybe not a lot of time to garden, and I’ll bet she’d love to have you come over to make things more beautiful for you with her gardening talents!
- Just a few words about skincare if you plan to start digging this Earth Day: To clean up, use a very gentle sulfate-free (detergent-free) soap or cleansing bar to remove dirt. Our shea butter and goat’s milk Sweet Rose Milk Soaps are sulfate-free, soothe your skin with organic rose and chamomile, and are made with avocado and apricot kernel oils to moisturize and soften hard working hands. After cleansing, apply a small amount of rich body butter to heal and protect every time you garden.