Winter bypassed us this year. I love my seasons, each of them, and celebrate their assertiveness. Give me some spells of wilting heat and humidity in the summer, and give me some windblown snow in winter. An insistent or prolonged winter always enhances the arrival and beauty of spring.
Spring is the season of rebirth and renewal. It is the reawakening of so many of our animal neighbors, the return of the biophony of courtship. Birds, frogs, and insects voice their desire amidst the great plant revival, an explosion of green all around us, underfoot and overhead. I love the warmer, longer days, but I feel in my heart the joy of all these beings around me starting anew. It is a time for celebration.
In 1969, at Bear Tavern School, we celebrated Arbor Day. There were songs, poems, and outdoor time in honor of our most dependable neighbors, trees. The day concluded with the distribution of tiny white pine saplings to each student.
What a gift! My very own tree! My parents embraced this opportunity, guiding me through tree planting and care, creating a tree lover beyond this one-day-a-year celebration. The pine and I would grow up together.
In 1970, a broader celebration was launched at school. We were celebrating not just trees, but the wonder and fragility of the whole planet. There were speeches, serious in tone and perhaps beyond my fourth grade comprehension, about caring for our planet. A circle of sod was ceremonially peeled back, and in the bare earth a collection of pines was planted in a circle. This was the first Earth Day, symbolic of a new awakening.
This was a time when television, a frequent companion around dinnertime, presented an endless onslaught of the news of turbulence – the war in Vietnam, the fight for equal rights, racial injustice, assassinations, Kent State, and burning rivers. I could not fully comprehend all of this, nor the emotions of those around me.
Amidst this din and confusion, Earth Day blossomed, offering the masses an opportunity to celebrate and righteously act on behalf of our environment. Beyond our circle of trees, in colleges and universities, in towns and on city streets, the fight for our environment rose to new levels, magnified, like the mayhem, on TV news. Twenty million people participated in the first Earth Day.
While the memory of that first Earth Day, for me, is obscured by fog of long-ago youth, it sowed seeds for me – seeds of hope, positivity and empowerment. Despite the news and policies from Washington these days, Earth Day is every day. It is up to all of us to keep in our heart the sacred offering and pact – the earth provides, we protect and honor. We must work together to continue the righteous work that blossomed fifty years ago.
Final note –
Those pine trees and I grew up together. Every day I would fall in love. Birdsong emanated from the branches and robins constructed their nests, one mouthful of mud at a time. Rabbits scurried on forays for clover, seeking shelter beneath the skirt of branches. So many lovely weeds – scarlet pimpernel and creeping jenny – kept company with these pines.
If I stare up into the branches, I can block out the noise to imagine the pine needles growing past our daily worries -dropping when they’ve completed their task. The pine trees will be here for the next Earth Day. They will stand tall to inspire other children, breathe deeply, and send their roots a little deeper. Their work is not done yet, and neither is ours.