Sunday, April 17, 2016

7 Quick Takes - Earth Day Edition

A big thank you to Kelly at her blog for hosting this (belated) edition of Quick Takes!

I loved being a child of the '70s. It was just an awesome decade to grow up in. I wore sundresses and bell-bottoms and had long hair. In elementary school, we learned all about energy conservation and had long recesses. Neighborhood kids played outside (a lot) while our mothers were inside, trying to figure out how to make things like soybean patties and homemade granola. At Christmas time, very few neighbors hung lights on their homes, and when they did, we were amazed at how much electricity they were wasting. We took short showers and waited in long lines at the gas station. We grew up with Woodsy Owl, who told us to "Give a hoot. Don't pollute," and the crying Indian commercial. Being concerned about the environment didn't make you a liberal or a democrat or a hippie or a tree hugger. It made you an ordinary citizen.

So, I suppose it's only natural that I think Earth Day is a good thing. A product of the '70s (April 22, 1970, to be exact), Earth Day was intended to be a celebration of the one thing we all have in common...namely, this planet we all share... and a call-to-arms to take care of it. If it goes down the tubes, we all go down with it, kinda like the Titanic. Unfortunately, people like me now must bear the many labels that go with being concerned about our natural environment. Caring for the environment, like so many other issues, has become highly politicized and polarized. It makes me long for the 1970s again, when at least we could all agree on something.

Anyhow, I wanted to share a few of the things my family is doing this week in honor of Earth Day. I hope maybe it inspires others to consider getting in on the act as well.  Just be forewarned. Someone might call you a hippie. Or a granola-cruncher. It's okay. You're in pretty good company.

1. Go Outside
I know. Sounds like a no-brainer. But seriously, I wonder how many people, especially school kids, will spend this entire week indoors?  Walking to and from the car doesn't count! So, if you do nothing else this week, just take a little extra time to go outside. Find a park, playground, or just your backyard, and spend some time in it. Go for a hike or maybe just sit in the sun. It's all good! We went for a hike yesterday to an old fire lookout tower in a park near our home. My son got to learn about history and conquer his fear of heights plus fill his lungs with some fresh air.  Win win!

2. Look at the Moon
This year, Earth Day coincides with the full moon.  My boys and their dad just love to sit outside and stargaze. They look for airplanes and satellites and shooting stars and when the moon is full, they love to look through binoculars at it. Odds are, this Friday night, weather-permitting, we'll be checking out the full moon again. And if you live in an area where the light pollution is bad, check out some of the parks nearby.  Several parks have stargazing programs for the public. Or perhaps you could visit a planetarium, or take a drive out to the countryside and find a place to stargaze. It's always humbling to look up and remember just how small we really are.

3. Feed the Hummingbirds
The ruby-throated hummingbirds showed back up here this past week and we were so excited! It always feels like the return of a long-missed friend when the summer birds return, especially the hummingbirds. We rushed to get our feeder up so that they will set up housekeeping in our backyard.  My son was so excited that he hurriedly designed and built his own hummingbird feeder and then hung it on his bicycle. He was so proud of his handiwork! Those hummingbirds will have to be pretty quick to catch that feeder!

4. Plant something
We are planting potatoes this week, but you can plant anything for Earth Day. Weather still too cold to plant in the garden? How about picking or buying a few fresh flowers for the home?  Or perhaps taking a field trip to a local plant nursery and buying herbs for the kitchen? Just one flower or green thing can go a long ways towards lifting the spirit.

5. Backyard Camping
We went camping this weekend. In the backyard. About 20 yards from our house. It was wonderful. I love "real" camping but I hate hate hate getting all the "stuff" ready to go camping. So, I get around the latter by advocating for backyard camping. Pitching the tent in the backyard saves me lots and lots and lots of time and effort and the kids still love it. They still get to sleep in a tent and eat s'mores and I still get to use an indoor restroom and take a shower and keep my sanity. I highly recommend it.

6. Reduce/Reuse/Recycle
I know, this one is pretty obvious too. But perhaps you are like me and didn't quite get around to giving some stuff away to charity for Lent. Why not do it for Earth Day? Every piece of clothing or item that gets reused by someone else reduces manufacturing and consumption by just a teeny little bit. We'll be cleaning out our winter closet this week, so it's a great time to consider reducing, reusing or recycling a lot of what we've got.

7. Eat Some Dandelions
Okay, so this one will definitely get you labeled a hippie.  But seriously, don't knock it 'til you try it. I have always known that dandelions are edible (and very nutritious) but didn't realize just how yummy they can be until I tried this recipe. We loved them so much, we've picked every dandelion we can find on our property and made three batches! It makes a great little appetizer and is fun for the kids. You might actually be able to get them to eat something healthy this way.

So how are you planning to celebrate Earth Day?  I'd love to hear your ideas or stories. As a friend of mine once said, "There's a little bit of hippie in all of us." I like to believe he was right.

Happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 8, 2016

My Birthday Bouquet

It’s April!  And Easter! And Spring!  Alleluia!

I love this time of year, not as much as I love autumn, but springtime is definitely a close second.  Perhaps if I didn’t suffer from an annual spring allergy each year, which always leaves me feeling miserable for about a week, or until it rains, whichever comes first, I’d love springtime more than autumn.  But for now, autumn takes the prize.

Of course, it doesn’t exactly feel like spring here yet.  I begrudgingly built another fire in the wood stove this morning, and most of the garden is still under plastic, and the spring warblers are only beginning to make an appearance.  We’ll have snow flurries this weekend, they say, and then another warm-up.  Most likely, if the forecast holds true, we’ll lose our apple crop, peach crop, pear crop and perhaps the acorn and hickory crop in the next forty-eight hours.  If not, it’ll have been a close call.  If so, it was bound to happen, considering the fact that we enjoyed a bumper crop last year.  As with all things, not every year brings every blessing, yet somehow, we still end up with enough.

I’m a spring baby, with a birthday that usually coincides with the sneezing and sniffles of my springtime allergy, and this year did not disappoint.  Right on schedule, I said goodbye to another year lived, and welcomed the next one with a handkerchief and some antihistamines. So, I suppose my husband thought I’d lost my mind when he asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and my response was “to go see wildflowers.”  I figured if I was going to be miserable, I might as well be miserable doing something I love, and it takes more than a runny nose to keep me inside when I know the dead leaves on the forest floor are giving way to a carpet of color. 

So we hit the trails and wandered through the woodlands of the Cumberland Plateau and Kentucky River Palisades in search of the birthday bouquet that God had prepared just for me.

Of course, it’s not just for me. I simply say that because I believe that every small beauty or good thing that comes to me is given to me by a God who loves me.  But certainly not only me. 

The natural world and all its beauty is for all of us, yet God makes it so grand that each of us can find the opportunity to see one particular wildflower or watch one particular sunset and believe it was made just for us.

Because God is like that.

He can create a universe and still manage to give each of us our own star to look upon.  He can create a forest and give us each our own wildflower to admire. 

I guess that’s why I love the natural world so much.  Because it’s easy for me to feel privileged and blessed when I look upon a wildflower and know that I am the only one who sees it at that moment and perhaps, ever will see it. 

That particular flower, at that particular moment, feels like it was made just for me, and perhaps, for the bumblebees.

In a world that craves self-acclamation and validation, it is comforting to know that such self-worth can be found in a wildflower.

After all, it’s hard not to feel like part of the elite when we are the only apparent witness to so much natural beauty.

And yet, the tragedy is that nearly every natural beauty on our earth has no appreciative witness, other than perhaps the angels and God himself.

But I suspect that for God, that is more than enough. 

And when I think of God in that context, it really does not seem all that surprising that the most beautiful things he gives to us are things that we would never even notice if we didn’t make the effort to see them.

Birthdays can be like that; when time feels like an enemy, a birthday can hardly be seen as a blessing. My birthday has often felt like that. Waiting to be a mother to children who never come has often made my birthdays feel like a mile marker along an empty trail barren of wildflowers.  I saw no beauty in being another year older.

But the truth is, God does not leave anything barren. Even the most empty, desolate-appearing desert has life just below its surface, waiting for the rain or for the coolness of night to fall before it can make its appearance. 

And as I celebrate another year, I realize more than before that even when my life looks the most empty, the most barren, God is planting wildflowers along my trail.

And they will bloom... 

...when the season is right.