Honoring the earth every day

I’m surrounded by windows in my living room, and through the glass I can see tiny red leaves bursting forth on the maple trees, and wind riffling through newly-budded shrubbery. In an earlier walk with Lady, I watched clouds scudding across the sky, trailing mutating shadows across the earth below. Water lapped at the shores of the bay, geese honked because I was too close to nesting grounds, and wild violets bled across open expanses and huddled under trees. I see all that, and I’m celebrating.

Today is Earth Day. But for me–and ideally for everyone else–every day is earth day. Every day is a day to celebrate this lovely world God gave us to live in for this journey called life.

The day–the official day–was originally celebrated in 1970, and was the brainchild of then-Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson. He came up with the idea after witnessing the ravages of 1969’s massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The day was designed with the purpose of education about the issues facing the environment such as air pollution and water quality and contamination control.

My earth day celebrations began long ago, and the education was the natural kind, the kind passed along from grandmother to mother and to me. They didn’t talk about contamination or environment as issues of their own. What I learned from them was love, and thus respect, and thus a natural disinclination to ever do anything to harm God’s creation.

It began when Grandma toured her large backyard with me,

Photo by Monica Sawyn

pulling weeds, composting them for later, dead-heading flowers, making her little corner of the world productive and beautiful. She showed me the huge toad that bred in that backyard and carried her young on her back, and she told me stories about the wild things I longed to know better.

Grandma planted three big pine trees in her backyard to represent a portion of the woods of her youth. Those trees grew up with me and many is the time, when I was sure no one was looking, that I’d wrap my arms around them in genuine affection. I’d lounge on the piles of newly-mown grass freshly deposited atop the compost pile, and read my books, talk to those trees, listen to the birds, watch the clouds.

Grandma gave me a corner of her yard to plant a few seeds of my own. That was when I first witnessed miracles of emergent life, and savored the taste of vegetables the earth and I had worked together to produce.

On Sundays, Mom insisted on rides in the country, down to the rivers, around the lakes, picnics in quiet places. We’d pick apples from wild trees, gather tadpoles in mason jars to raise to frog stage and then release.

Photo by Monica Sawyn

We didn’t need anti-litter campaigns to encourage us to leave nothing but footprints. Mother Nature in all her expressions was our friend, our mentor, our companion, our nurturer, our place to play–but we knew she’d come from God, and that he cared for her as he cared for us. How could we abuse her?

The other day, as George and I approached our home, our dog trotting at our sides, we talked about how stewardship of the land includes even our little patch of earth. We groom it and plant in it, we grow a few veggies in a little raised garden, we feed the birds, and the crows and the squirrels; we sit on our deck

Photo by Monica Sawyn

and listen to the voices of wind and weather; sometimes we just stand in our window and enjoy it all, no matter whether it’s raining or sunning.

We recycle; we conserve energy; we pick up other people’s litter; we’re aware of the kind of footprint we leave.

But all of that is almost subliminal. Mostly we just enjoy, we stay consciously aware of beauty, everywhere, all around us, in abundance, the largesse of a God who loves us. How we treat our earth is part of the measure of how much we love him back.

Happy earth day–every day!


About Monica Sawyn

I'm a retired newspaper reporter/columnist, and although I still freelance, I miss the weekly column I used to write. I still "see columns" in everyday life and need a place to put them after they're written--thus, this blog. I'm Catholic, have been a Benedictine oblate since 1977, and live with my husband and our beagle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, sewing, taking photos or walking the dog.
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