Way back in 1993, my new husband and I volunteered to help create the very first Earth Day Celebration in Cape May County. As a social studies teacher, I’d been incorporating environmental studies into my curriculum for a handful of years, and had recently shaped a collaborative unit with the new science teacher; and as such was poised (and eager!) to expand that consciousness at a larger level.
Just before the event, however, I went into labor, and birthed a miniature baby girl, at the end of the first trimester. I was still able to attend the fair, but was forced to do so from the sterile perch of 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. The turnout was better than ever, and the celebration at Sam’s Pizza afterward a huge success, but photos of me that day reveal a pale and somber young woman.
Sensing the depth of my despair, my husband gave wings to a dream we had long shared. Thus three months later, we left behind the Beach Sweep leadership, the Earth Day committee, our precious students and friends, and our beloved family–including three sets of parents, nine siblings, a dozen aunts and uncles, and countless cousins.
Two sons and a timber-framed home in Vermont followed in the years to come.
Earth Day festivities abound in these Green Mountains, but we quickly learned that our neighbors here had a day to day relationship with the natural world. While recycling and water conservation put us ahead of the curve at the Jersey shore, we had much to learn about the nuances of living in harmony with the earth around us, and we are still learning.
Our sons grew up “on the land,” visiting neighboring farms, and living out their relationship with the earth within our community and beyond–bringing consciousness to state, national and international levels under the guidance of committed educators.
A quarter of a century ago, the Earth Day Fair in New Jersey was, for many, an introduction into simply considering the environment in day to day decisions. Now, it’s more of a punctuation of an evolving relationship with the life-giving force we all call home. What was once Reduce, Reuse and Recycle has matured to include Restore, Replenish and Respect.
This year, it slipped our minds to go to the Earth Day Festivities in town; but we were in our gardens, uncovering signs of spring and looking up to see the geese return to the pond.
The preciousness & fragility of life–human & planet–continue to pulse–inside me–forever shaped by this week in 1993, and by the lives that later grew inside and around me.
May we each find our own way to deepen our relationship with the earth around us, and may this remind us of our response-ability to the life-giving planet with which we have been entrusted.
Happy Earth Day!
Kelly Salasin, April 22, 2013