I grew up on 200 acres of farmland that included woods, a pond, and a small creek, so I was surrounded with opportunities to connect with the planet. Sure, I spent time collecting and counting pinecones, chasing fireflies, looking for deer tracks and scattering dandelion fluff. But most of the time, I was too busy with chores, school and just being a kid to slow down and appreciate it.
One spring Sunday I remember watching my dad get up from the lunch table and make his way through the screen door and outside to the small hill where the windmill once stood. He lay down on that small slope of grass, stretched out his long legs, put his hands behind his head and fell asleep. I was eight or nine years old, and thought it kind of a silly place for a nap, but I waited about an hour after Dad returned to the farm chores before checking it out myself. Cautiously, I let my body sink into the cool of the grass. The sun warmed my closed eyelids; a breeze cooled my forehead. I was aware of the deep, dark soil beneath me, the endless thousands of blades of grass that surrounded me, the buzzing of insects and the miles of sky stretching far above me. I have yet to find a resort hammock or pillowtop mattress with the orthopedic benefits of that gentle slope. No wonder Dad chose that little hill over the lumpy living room sofa. Where else to rest and repair but on the land where he labored, the land that gave us a living and so much more? I’m thinking of that little hill on this Earth Day, not just because it was a wonderful napping spot, but because I remember it as a place of feeling connected to the whole Earth, knowing that I was a small part of the living universe.
I hope that my children feel that same connection. Studies show that kids who have contact with nature grow up with a sense of belonging and sense of place. These are the good memories that adults retain from childhood. Yes, my kids are being taught at home and at school the concepts of recycling, taking care of the environment and leaving a small carbon footprint. However, a walk in the woods or some time playing in the park may teach them even better. It’s not what they do there that important; it’s that they’re there experiencing it. If they have that quiet moment of connection to Mother Earth, taking care of our planet becomes second nature.
So my Earth Day challenge to you is to find that place where you reconnect to the planet and revisit it. Or find a new place. It doesn’t have to be a mountaintop, though mountains are good for gaining perspective. It might be as close as the green space outside your office, the park or your own backyard. You don’t have to do anything but watch and listen and be a part of it. Because when you remember that connection to Mother Earth, all the rest will follow.