Where were you in 1970 when Earth Day was first celebrated? I was 7 years old. My particular corner of Earth was a suburb of Chicago where I played in a Forest Preserve across the street from my house. I learned to recognize wild flowers like violets and Jack-in-the Pulpit and animals like squirrels and blue jays. I picked up litter that motorists had thrown out their windows or that picnickers had left in the woods. I’d often find broken beer or Boones Farm Strawberry Hill bottles near the concrete structure off the trail, within the circle of the remains of a campfire. I could never understand why people would just leave their trash behind. My parents would not tolerate that kind of disrespectful behavior in me, and I was incredulous that adults could get away with it. I would come home and tell my mother (a Girl Scout leader) that I’d found evidence of people not “leaving the place cleaner than they found it”. I can still feel my girlish outrage. When I was in 6th grade, I joined an Eco Club and volunteered to help pick up trash in the playground after school. I think I was the only one. I remember being alone with a big trash bag, meandering the grounds and talking to myself. I was very happy feeling that I was contributing to the Ecology Movement. Now that I’m 50, the scope of my awareness has outgrown the patch of land I call my neighborhood. I still feel outrage; I still hope to be part of the solution but on a more grown-up scale. How to do that as an individual is perplexing. There is not one easy button to push to do it. It is a network of decisions, with threads crisscrossing from recycling to teaching to voting. To stay engaged, to keep up the effort, to put energy into learning and practicing responsibility is the way of Earth friendliness. How is your friendship with Earth going today?
“Look wider still” was a slogan used by the Girl Scouts and Girl Guides in the 70s for their program curriculum. My mother was a leader at that time and this phrase stuck with her. She connected it to all sorts of insights and still does, even now when she is just about to become an octogenarian. I’ve always thought of this phrase as it relates to the way I am stimulated and entranced by a panoramic view. As a very young girl, I loved looking at a spreading seascape or landscape. I was born in Massachusetts, grew up in Illinois, vacationed in Michigan at a beach cottage, and then lived in California for 15 years. My personal panoramas are waves on the horizon, infinite prairies and fields, and vast mountain ranges. These always make me feel that there is a bigger picture. My anxieties are founded in the smaller loops of stress and the claustrophobia that comes from forgetting to look up. The best way to look wider, to look up, to get a healthier perspective, is to climb to the top of something. James Taylor might suggest going up on a roof, but I prefer to be in a natural setting. Up there, I feel calmer, more peaceful, like I belong to something bigger, more ancient and more durable. There my petty problems fade away, and I breathe easier.
© 2014, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved
This week’s prompt page from The Daily Post says this about monuments: “They insist on their own importance, but at the same time allow locals and tourists, pilgrims and accidental visitors, to share a moment and to get a taste of each other’s stories.” The same can be said of the photographs we take and treasure and post. They are monuments of our journey, where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, the stories we’ve told and heard. So, I’d like to share some monuments from my journey on Friday. Steve and I are trying to take a weekly field trip out into the more rural areas of Wisconsin. We are researching a new life, a new home, a new way of embodying what we value: simple, honest work in a lifestyle that respects the planet and is less dependent on human systems. We drove up into the North Country, beyond the oak savannas of southeastern Wisconsin, through the Driftless Area (unglaciated during the most recent glacial event) with its windswept sandstone outcroppings, and into the cranberry bogs and pine forests of Ho-Chunk land. The monumental feeling of this expedition is built of adventure, re-connection with the Earth, the joy of being alive, and the peace of being open to whatever we encounter.
I’m tired and indecisive this evening, so you get two interpretations of this theme. The first is this one:
It’s my daughter, Rebecca, at her sister’s bridal shower. A couple of months after this photo was taken, her boyfriend proposed, and now she’s poised to be the next bride in our family. Perhaps she’ll be carried over a threshold shortly after that. (But that’s a pretty old custom; maybe no one does that any more.) Here’s another go: