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Apr202010

Planet Earth, April 20, 2010

Spring Greetings to you! I thought I'd post a picture of our fearless leader, Max, surrounded by petals of pink cherry blossoms. He was all smiles for this picture!

In honor of Earth Day which has just past (though every day should be Earth Day) I also wanted to include an excerpt from A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, first published in 1949. It's one of the classics in environmental writing and worth the read. Speaking of being published, my latest story can be found in City Sages: Baltimore, available on Amazon.

PLANET EARTH, OR: WATCHING THE CLOUDS GO BY

Lee and I watched his son Jamie, a steeplechase jockey, ride in the Maryland Grand National last Saturday. Jamie rode in two of the races, both of which were exhilarating and nerve-wracking. Lee and I spent most of the day, binoculars in hand, bracing against strong winds. It was a chilly day but the setting was spectacular. From our spot on the hill, we had a great view of the horses galloping gracefully across the new-green fields and jumping over the fences.  It felt like we could see for miles, the nearby farms and woods and gentle rolling hills. The sun was intermittent, clouds blew overhead, and all afternoon the sun chased the shadows across the landscape. We shivered in the shade but many hills away, patches of sunlight shone brightly on a distant field.  It was something to see. Jamie races again this Saturday in the Hunt Cup, and while I'll be dressed in more layers and rooting for him to finish on top of his horse, I'll also be outside in the elements, enjoying the spring.  

Last spring in March, we drove to Tennessee for my grandfather's memorial service. The drive was a six hundred mile progression into spring so that by the time we arrived in Chattanooga, cherry blossoms were in full bloom. One afternoon Lee and I made our way to the top of Look Out Mountain and soaked in the view of the valley and the Tennessee River below. We were at quite a height. So high that the cars on the highway were dark specs, like particles of dust traveling down a shaft of light. All that movement seemed unrelated to me, so small that the very large lives of the people in those cars were invisible to us, did not seem possible or real. At least from that distance. I knew there were thousands of people going about their daily lives, thousands of worries and joys and chores to do, but I felt disconnected from it. Everything was smaller than I expected. Later we drove back down the mountain and everything became life-sized again.

 

The other night while Lee was channel surfing, his clicking  halted suddenly when he landed on earth. It was the NASA channel. They were broadcasting a live feed of our planet from a satellite in space. There wasn't any commentary, so it took me a moment to understand what I was seeing: an image of the earth, this orb we call home, reduced in size on the TV screen. Waves of clouds tossed and swirled and shifted shape above it. Above us. Lee and I sat in awed silence for several minutes and watched the earth, which is to say, watched ourselves. From that perspective, of course, watching "life on earth" is akin to watching an idea. We know life is here because we are living it, yet from a distance so far removed, life is impossible to see. I am so small as to not even register, an invisible molecules of a being.  My life, which feels so epic and complex at times, was put into perspective.

It's important to get the long view from time to time and recognize the insignificance of my problems. But it's also important to dig in the dirt, as I did on Sunday, to connect with the earth and ground myself in this experience of living. I planted some pansies on Sunday. It felt great to have my hands in the soil, to dig and churn the dirt. This spring has been beautiful: first the daffodils and bright yellow forsythia; then the cherry blossoms and red bud trees, the purple wisteria and red and yellow tulips. The birds are making their way back. Byrdie is happy about that. Her favorite thing to do is to run with abandon across the baseball fields and chase the robins that are gathered on the grass. The birds have the advantage and like to taunt Byrdie. She doesn't mind.

For centuries, people believed the sun revolved around the earth and that the world was flat. Now we look back and think, "How could they have had such a limited view?" The truth is, even now, we know just a little. There's a whole unseen world right here under our feet. The dirt is teeming with life that I barely notice, the insects, worms, roots, and seeds and all the unseen forces that go into bursting open a pod. The fact that spring erupts in joyous color each year is a miracle I can't explain.

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