Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Carry In, Carry Out

Earth Day is coming up this weekend, but for me, Earth Day is every day. You can’t see the pattern of revolving humanity and still be selfish about taking what you want for yourself from the earth. There are so many other people and animals to consider, as well as all the species of plants. It would be wonderful if we lived in a culture that was not human-centric, for the world we live on isn’t.
I was picking trash up along the street this week when a neighbor down the way asked me what I was doing. “Picking up cigarette butts,” I said. He was flabbergasted that I was picking up trash in someone else’s yard. I shrugged and told him that technically, my yard wasn’t my yard because I was a renter. Again he seemed surprised at the care we take with the property- we’re the only house that gardens in the summer on our street. What he seemed most surprised by was that I took care of something I didn’t own. His idea of property and possession saddened me. If everyone on my street cared, the curb wouldn’t look like a garbage dump. I believe that the care, or lack of care, we provide ourselves, and our homes, reflects the emotional state we exist in.
I pick up trash when I see it because the earth is not a garbage can, a point to which our landfills would beg to differ. I also do it because I honestly and sincerely care. Non-organic trash chokes the earth. How can living things grow and breathe under layers of plastic bags and concrete? If we want to live in a cleaner world, we have to be willing to clean it. I want to live in a cleaner and kinder world.
I didn’t always feel this way. I was a smoker in college, another young kid who thought it was cool to finish off a cigarette break by flicking my butt into the grass. My friend Jurgen called to me one day and asked me to bring him my cigarette butt. He showed me how to field-strip the extra tobacco and put the filter back in my cigarette box, because the tobacco and paper would decay, but the filter wouldn’t. I had never thought about that before. It’s what he had been taught to do with them in the military. He never chastised me for littering, or tried to make me feel guilty. He just showed me a conscientious way to walk on the earth and I took that lesson and awareness to heart.
In Binghamton, there are six wooden carousels that were built by George F. Johnson, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist. He built these carousels in local parks. As a child, he was very poor, and could never afford to ride the carousel. It was a magic he was denied that he carried into his adulthood. He wanted every child, who wanted to, to be able to ride a carousel so he stated that the price for a ride was a piece of litter from the park, forever, as a way of helping to keep them clean and green. How wonderful is that?
My local community has a basic rule we enforce for ourselves when in nature, because we feel that those of us who are alive to walk it are stewards of the land. The rule is simple: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Everything we bring with us, we take home with us, including dishes, glow sticks, disposable food tins, candy wrappers, empty bottles, etc. I’ve branched that out to a larger concept of carry in, carry out. Whatever I take with me, wherever I go, I am aware of it, and I make sure it all returns home with me, because at home I know everything that can be recycled will be.
What you discover are things you might not have been aware of, like just how many plastic-bottled beverages you go through, or how much waste goes into individually packaging a lot of the food we eat. It helped me make better choices in purchasing products, and over the years my garbage production has decreased. This year for Earth Day, make it Earth Week. Carry a bag around with you and put everything (except actual food) that you would throw in the trash bin in the bag. Do this for a week, and see the actual trail of trash you are leaving on the planet.
Remember that the earth is our mother, our father. It is the planet that gave us life and on which we are still dependent. Find ways of walking softly across her features, and see where you can trim your needs and comforts, sacrificing a little of our modern world to preserve the larger one. Remember that we are children of the earth, not its masters. Put your hands in the earth, play with some worms, plant some seeds, make friends with a tree spirit, and soak up the sun.

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