Greetings from the “City Invincible” (as Walt Whitman once referred to Camden, NJ!)
This is “Earth Day” month. Every April we set aside a day, sometimes a week, to celebrate the earth, to educate ourselves about its beauty and its vulnerability, to discover ways in which we can be more gentle as we make our way in life, and to re-commit ourselves (or commit ourselves for the first time) to be advocates for the earth and all the living things that make their home in this planet.
Having an Earth Day celebration is like having Women’s History Month or Black History Month or Hispanic Heritage Month. There is something strange about it. As a male, I went a long time rather clueless about what it means to women to have a “month” dedicated to remembering that women make history too! As a Caucasian, I went a long time rather clueless about what it means to black people and to people of Spanish heritage to have a “month” dedicated to remembering that, indeed, black men and women, Hispanic men and women, have made history. Did they only make history in those months!? Is the Earth, and its challenges, only around when we remember “Earth Day” on April 22nd of each year? The artificiality of a month or a day dedicated to a significant swath of human history or of reality on this planet, as if on the other 364 days of the year, or the other 11 months of the year, women, and black people, and Hispanics, and the earth, somehow recede back into the “it can’t be that important if we only remember it once a year” category of things: it seems absurd, doesn’t it? I’m not suggesting that we don’t celebrate Earth Day this year. In fact, below you will find information on a variety of Earth Day celebrations in Camden County. But I am suggesting that there is something sad about having to dedicate a day to do something we ought to be doing year round, respecting the earth, attending to its vulnerabilities, championing its needs. We ought to do that year round!
This morning, we were graced with a visit by a new manifestation of God’s bounty to the little piece of earth where we tend and till and nurture life, and make our home. Strutting up our side yard, with a certain kind of dignity, came a wild turkey! Now, we are regularly visited by deer, by skunks, by our friendly groundhog who has forced us to give up on tulips and grow only daffodils. We’ve been visited by a fox, bounding across our tent and by possums, who let us get close because, of course, they play dead! We get visits by numerous birds including woodpeckers, junkos, cardinals, blue jays, robins, crows, and the occasional hawk. A great blue heron regularly swoops down to look over the goldfish who scatter to hiding places in our pond. We, of course, have the squirrels, performing their acrobatic feats for us daily. At this time of the year, the forsythia are brilliant yellow, the hostas are pushing themselves up toward the sky, the viburnum are unwrapping their leaves, the hyacinth are stunning in their royal purple, and the daffodils smile from all corners of this beautiful space. So we are used to nature’s bounty of life and bustle. But the turkey! She didn’t stay too long. She walked through our backyard, to our compost pile. I ran for my camera, and slowly opened the door to our deck. No sooner had she heard me, then she ran, with quick steps, toward the far woods. Only there did she slow down, safe, away from the strange creature, to whom she is usually admired as a possible meal, but for this particular creature, a wonder of the creative imagination of God.
My goal this Earth Day, April 22nd, is to commit myself to each day enjoying the “surprises” of earth that come to me, in the beauty of a daffodil, or the artistry of white wispy clouds against a blue sky, or the laughter of a child finding a worm under a rock in the garden. Earth Day is every day. It is a 24 hour period in which I have the opportunity to admire God’s creative touch, to discover the “ever new” in all things on this planet, to live more gently, to walk more softly, to invite others to a new way of living, a more conscious way of living, a more sustainable way of living.
President, Board of Trustees