Please Don’t Forget!
It is April 22, 1970. I am a junior at Iowa State University. Spring has come to the small town of Ames, Iowa. The enormous old maples and oaks fringing central campus are leafing out. Tulips are blooming. The iconic lilac bushes are beginning to show promise of their white and purple fragrant blossoms. Students are sprawled on the grass sitting in small clusters on the immense lawnscape of central campus. Everyone is waiting for the daily 11:50 a.m. concert from the university carolinear who will play a 20-minute concert from the campanile tower with its 50 bells.
However, it is more than an ordinary day for students with spring fever. It has nationally been designated Earth Day. Speeches will be given in many places on campus, including on the steps of Bessey Hall, the old botany building. There will be a rally at the football stadium with music and more speeches. Over 20 million Americans will participate in parades, dances, and speeches on this first ever Earth Day inspired by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. I am already an idealistic young biologist. This event will secure my dedication to a lifetime of service to the earth.
What to do? As I always do, I pause and look to nature for guidance and teaching. Outside our homes and apartments in the northern hemisphere, fruit trees are sporting their glorious, sweet blossoms. Grass is greening again after the long winter. The southern hemisphere is moving into welcomed cooler temperatures and moisture—I think especially of our friends in Australia who are so grateful for the end of a brutal fire season. At a superficial view, nature seems to be thriving during this time of human slowdown.
Aren’t we grateful for the continuation of life on this precious planet? Don’t we feel that gratitude more deeply than ever this year? Isn’t that reason enough to celebrate? Of course! This year has been proclaimed the year that Earth Day goes digital. And, as I mention later in this essay, it is more important than ever to also go outdoors!
Online Earth Day celebrations
So, how can we celebrate and still honor social distancing mandates? There will be a lot happening online. One official site for Earth Day 2020 celebration is http://earthday.org/. Their website banner states, “We have two crises: one is the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. The other is a slowly building disaster for our climate. On April 22, Earth Day goes digital.”
Sierra Club devoted their March/April issue to celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. “On April 22, 1970 nearly one in 10 Americans flooded the streets and the woods and the seashores to call for an end to the merciless pollution of the country’s air, water, and landscapes.” They have many suggestions for Earth Day 2020 online: https://www.sierraclub.org/articles/2020/04/celebrating-earth-day?utm_source=insider&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter
The April issue of National Geographic is devoted to Earth Day 2020 and contains impressive background information and a look ahead 50 years—from both an optimistic and a pessimistic perspective.
And many local communities, including our own, previously had a month of celebrations planned—all of which have gone digital.
Actual outdoor observances
Because of social distancing mandates, people have had to let go of traditional ideas for celebrating many spring festivals. Passover, Easter, and Ramadan, all occurring in April, usually celebrate by gathering family and community. They are mostly being celebrated online. Earth Day is no different, but If you can safely and legally get outside, do so. If you are inside, tend plants in your house, handle vegetables with reverence, plant seeds, feed birds, listen to your pets with calmed attention.
So, what else can be done at this time of staying indoors and doing respectful social distancing? I think almost anyone can participate in a Sit Spot. A Sit Spot is a practice of outdoor meditation or noticing. No devices, just physical senses: you with Nature. I have a Sit Spot in our local state park that is waiting for me once the shelter in place restrictions are lifted and the parks open to the public again. My closest Sit Spot is on the front porch. You can sit on a balcony overlooking quieted streets, on a front porch, or the steps into your house. Find a place within a few minutes walk out your front door into your yard or garden. A senior in a wheelchair can participate.
Sit spot is both location and intention. Sit by yourself for ten minutes. Bring a notebook and a pen, maybe colored pencils. Be completely quiet and do not move except to write down anything you see, hear, smell or sense.
My suggestion is to do this every day during Earth Week: April 20-24. It is best to go to the same spot every day so you can really practice your skills of observation and see what different things you notice each day—especially at different times of the day. At the end of your 10 minutes create something from your observations: a drawing, a short story, a collage, a poem. Then participate in the community aspect of this incredible celebration—send it off to children, grandchildren, friends, or even a local website.
Instead of participating in an outdoors youth celebration this Earth Week, as would be my custom, I am working with local elementary teachers to design some Earth Day celebration ideas for their online curriculum—which includes a Sit Spot exercise.
It is rural here and our local Land Trust has allowed its trails to remain open. People are very good about stepping aside and letting one another pass. If you have access to parks or beaches, enjoy, respect social distancing, and treat your outing as a privilege. So many of your fellow planetary citizens to not have this opportunity right now. Gratitude is a very important part of an Earth Day celebration.
The planet is getting a rest right now from many of the activities of its 7.8 billion humans. Perhaps, this is the greatest Earth Day gift we can bestow.
Fifty years ago, on Earth Day when I was that junior at Iowa State University, the speeches, the parades, and rallies were the most inspirational thing I had ever experienced in my young life. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin called this celebration forward as a way to bring environmental issues to the forefront of political action. The results were astounding. In the 1970s the U.S. implemented major legislation such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. The Environmental Protection Agency was founded.
Now more than ever earth wellness needs to come to the forefront of our thinking and action. My request for each of us in this time of pandemic is to remember and participate in the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, 2020. And even more than that—may we support political action that enables us to have the optimistic view of 2070 portrayed in this month’s National Geographic magazine.
Thank you for this timely reminder of the birth of Earth Day. It is ironic that just 50 years ago a communicty effort was made to bring the needs of the earth to the intention of the inhabitants. What a pity that so many people have been more interested in their short term comforts and totally negligent about the long terms needs of the planet on which they reside.
Let us make a pledge that we will endeavour to learn more about Gaia going forward, and make some adaptations in our lifestyle in order to accommodate the needs of the natural environment. Thanks for this timely reminder that we were made aware of the potential danger of our lifestyle a full half century ago.
With appreciation for your clear articulation of our charge going forward, Grace.
I remember that day. The hope and inspiration that came from it affected so many of us and changed our lives in small to very large ways. So grateful for stewards like you who have fanned that spark through the years with your unrelenting service and love.
So grateful for your remembrance of that day, Deb. I’ve asked a number of my peers if they remembered and, as always, it depended on where you were in the country and the world and in your own life at that time. Blessings, Ann
Thank you, Ann, for this call to action, contemplation and appreciation! It is much appreciated as this year’s Earth Day could easily be missed with all of the other issues going on. We will sit in partnership with all on this earth who will pause and listen, smell, see and touch the goodness that has been untrusted to us.
Will imagine you and Robert holding the honor of this day in Chicago, thank you, Ann.
Beautiful, Annie, as usual!
Bless you (-:
Anne, I love the idea of a sit spot. As I’m in full telework mode throughout April … I can easily slip out toward the wooded hillside beside me, or the open yard behind me, or my front steps that overlook my yard and an empty field that’s unmown and natural.
Thank you for your suggestion. Hope you are both well.
May you enjoy and may it rejuvenate all else you are doing.
Hi Anne. Happy earth Day from Australia!
Ah, from around the globe we will remember and appreciate the fragile, yet powerful beauty we have inherited!
Oh thank you so much, Ann. Your words touch me deeply. Thank you so much for this reminder. Blessings to you both.
So very good to hear from you, Virginia!
Thank you for this simple and profound invitation. A beautiful tribute to the 50th anniversary. And – so doable, and meaningful, in this spring time: witnessing nature’s evolution daily; reclaiming calmness; and even hope. Sweet to imagine many of us in our sitspots around the world!
Yes, dear Marjeta, to reclaiming hope! I will imagine you in your Slovenian forests in a Sit Spot and it will bring me so much joy!
Thank you, Ann, for this inspiring blog, and thank you also Christina, for PeerSpirit.
From distant Montreal, overlooking the great Saint-Lawrence river, admiring the first breaths of spring — greetings and good wishes for Easter. And for all Earth Dys to come
Yes, the beauty of spring unites our responses here. Ann
I have been finding myself challenged some days to write anything at all. I love the idea of a “sit spot” and the simplicity of writing what you experience. I have a lovely little porch and a chair, a notebook and a pen. This is a great exercise for every day, and maybe a special emphasis during Earth Week. The Earth thanks you for all of the loving attention over the years.
In my belief system, it is a gift to be tended. It brings me such joy to think about many, many people in sit spots tending our precious earth. Personally, the process has brought ME many gifts over the years.
Thanks Ann – I will do my Sit Spot starting today – easter – seems like a good practice for today as well. Thanks so much for the refocus. Gratitude – for your words and for the Earth. Namaste
Sit spots are a regular part of my spiritual practice throughout the year. Really, just 10 minutes a day/a week/even a month makes a huge difference to my frame of gratitude and listening.
Thank you Ann. So 50 years ago we became aware we were killing our environment, killing our future generations. I will not be here in 2070, and if things don’t improve — like electing people who believe in science — no one else will be either.
Thank you for this reflection. As you know, most of my photogrpahy over the last 10 years has been of the wonderful nature scenes of our country. I love them so much, let’s protect them.
Yes, Harry, your photography does a lot to open people’s eyes to see and appreciate the marvels of this country. Appreciation is key to activism, so never doubt your own service. Ann
You have given words to some of the gratitude I feel today as I take in the beauty of where we live — as I look at the sky, the mountains, the beach, the water, the birds, everything that is flowering and growing, I am filled with delight and wonder. It is almost too much to take in. Happy Easter! :o)
Gratitude right back to you for all you do for the youth on this island!
Thank you for the story, the resources and the reminders,Ann. I read that article in National Geographic, too. Such unprecedented times we are in with so much possibility for renewal and resurrection. Sending you love and blessings for spring and Earth Day. I love that photo of you! xo
Yes, there are so many possibilities for renewal and resurrection and they will take courage, determination, and discipline.
Dear Ann, thank you very much for this lovely blog. What a great reminder of how we can take time to honor the earth even in this time of the pandemic coronavirus. I love the idea of a sit spot, which can easily be accomplished in my own backyard. So good you have given this reminder to celebrate Earth Day. Even though we can’t be together physically we can still enjoy being with the earth physically. What a great temporary break the earth is getting right now as people are staying home, not driving as much. So good to hear his perspective from you! Thanks for sharing your wonderful words of wisdom. Namaste
Dear Flory, so wonderful to hear from you after all these years! You are one of the people who has always treasured being on the earth. Bless you and keep sharing your appreciation of the earth. Ann
Ann, I appreciate the attention given to the “sit spot” as well as bringing about focus on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day ~ so many memories of past celebrations flash through my mind but nothing before like what we are experiencing now. I confess, MY sit spot out at the edge of out back yard on a platform built by my husband so that I can overlook the desert yet be shaded by the mesquite tree nearby has been all but abandoned as of late. After reading your piece, I went out, swept the steps, carefully watching for awakened rattlers bearing new young and thought, why have I not been here. Thanks for the renewed energy and spirt to go forth, appreciating our earth, celebrating her and I’m not waiting until the anniversary! Yakoke (thank you) for the push I needed. I will indeed observe the four special days. B in Arizona
Dear B, Thank you for this poignant story of remembering and reawakening. The earth welcomes you back. Blessings, Ann