20 years ago, my new husband and I volunteered to help create the very first Earth Day Celebration in Cape May County. As a teacher, I’d been incorporating environmental studies into my 6th grade social studies curriculum, and I looked forward to working at the community level. My husband and I were also expecting our first child so the future of the planet was intensely personal.
Just before the event, at the end of my first trimester, I went into labor, and birthed a baby girl with too many x chromosomes. We still attended the Earth Day fair, but I was forced to simply watch the festivities from a beach chair. An early lesson in surrender.
The following weekend was the annual Beach Sweep which I had coordinated on the island since its inception a few years earlier. The turnout was better than ever, and the party afterward was a huge success, but photos of me that day reveal a pale and somber young woman.
A week later, my husband and I made the difficult decision to relocate. We left behind the Earth Day Fair, the Beach Sweep, the ocean, our families and students; and headed for the mountains. In the years to come, two children and a home followed.
Earth Day festivities abound here too, but our neighbors in Vermont have an every day relationship with the natural world that is beyond fairs. We had been ahead of the curve in New Jersey (with recycling and water conservation), but we had much to learn about the nuances of living in harmony with the world around us. (We’re still learning.)
Our own sons grew up “on the land,” working side by side with neighboring farmers, and learning about this relationship, first hand. They’ve each worked on behalf of the environment in the classroom, the community, and beyond.
Twenty years ago, the Earth Day Fair that my husband and I helped shape was, for many, an introduction into simply considering the environment. Now, it’s more of a punctuation of an evolving relationship for all. What was once Reduce, Reuse and Recycle has matured to include Restore & Replenish.
This year, it slipped our minds to go to the Earth Day Festivities in town; but we were there, out in the garden, uncovering signs of spring and looking up to see the geese return to the pond.
May we each find our own way to deepen our relationship with the world around us, ever more.
Happy Earth Day!
Kelly Salasin, April 22, 2013