Once Upon an Earth Day Fair

Once Upon an Earth Day Fair

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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

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Mom, There’s a Fish in the Toilet!

Mom, There’s a Fish in the Toilet!

On the day after Irene assaulted Vermont, the word on the road was that we could be without power for up to a month. When we saw what the flood did to Route 9 (the main highway across our state) we didn’t doubt it.

My husband and I began talking about leaving. “Maybe we should head down to family in New Jersey,” he said.

But of course, we had jobs; and the kids had school–maybe; and we wanted to be in town to help when there was someway to get to the others who had been harder hit than us.

Fortunately or unfortunately, we were stuck like everyone else. No one was heading out of town on these badly damaged back roads, let alone a Honda Civic, when even the National Guard couldn’t even make it down our road with tires bigger than me.

We resigned ourselves to living the way we know how to live without power–candles, and jugs of water, and simple meals; only we couldn’t use the front porch as refrigerator as we did after a winter storm.

Once again we envied those with generators, and talked about getting one ourselves, but I was always wary about the dangers, and it wasn’t the loss of the refrigerator or the lights that hit me the hardest–but the absence of flushing toilets.

I know it’s not very Vermont of me, and I did always want an outhouse with a moon-shaped cut out on the door, but instead I sent my husband down our driveway and across the road to the pond, to fill up a bucket with water, and pour it carefully into the tank of the downstairs toilet so that we might get at least one flush a day.

Thus, the next morning, after my husband left for work, it didn’t take me long to figure out what happened when my young son called up from the bathroom to say,

“Mom, there’s a fish in the toilet!”

But it was the last straw.

“What do you mean?” I called down the stairs, just as desperately.

“A fish, Mom. There’s an actual fish in the toilet,” he replied.

“Is it alive?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered.

“How big is it?”

And we continued this separate floor conversation like this until I told him, “Just scoop it out, and take it back to the pond.”

“Can’t I just flush it, Mom?” he asked.

“No!” I replied, “It will die. Just scoop  it out and take it back to the pond.”

I know it was a big request for a tiny thing that he’d string on a fishing pole on any other day, but after seeing the devastation to my town, I couldn’t bear another loss, however small.

“I can’t” he replied quietly.

“Why? Just get a cup or something.”

“I can’t… because I’ve already used the bathroom.”

“Pee?” I asked.

“Nope,” he replied.

“Oh.”

And so I resigned myself to sending this poor little unsuspecting fish who survived the Great Flood of 2011 to its end in our septic tank.

“Go ahead and flush,” I called to my son, as one who selfishly demanded water for her toilet.

Kelly Salasin, Marlboro, Vermont, 2011

For other posts from Vermont after the flood, click here.

Or here to read more about flushing toilets after a storm.