Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 1, 2020

"For the Beauty of the Earth"

Today is May Day. It always brings thoughts of my childhood, when sister Gaila and I would cut lilacs, spirea and other flowers, wrap them in homemade construction-paper cones or put them in baskets, and deliver them to friends and relatives.

The arrival of spring, when flowers blossom, lawns and prairie grasses turn green, and leaves unfurl, makes me antsy to be outside. This year, because of being more confined than usual, that desire seems even stronger.

But the feeling doesn't begin overnight. Some years, it may be the sighting of the season's first jonquil or the budding of the forsythia, Bradford pears and redbud trees. I think this year it was the arrival of the spring 2020 issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine. Every year when husband Art buys his Wisconsin trout-fishing license, he subscribes to the magazine published by the state's Department of Natural Resources. The latest issue featured an article on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. On April 22, 2004, the 34th anniversary of Earth Day, my column, "The Three Rs," focused on the "reduce, re-use and recycle" theme promoted by environmentalists as ways we ordinary citizens can do our part.

Earth Day's origin can be traced back to 1968, when Wisconsin U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson's advocacy for the environment led to the passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The first Earth Day, also the brainchild of Nelson, was celebrated two years later. An estimated 20 million Americans gathered in cities and on college campuses around the country. He encouraged people to have a national teach-in to take action for the Earth and encourage their elected officials to do the same. Today, Earth Day is celebrated in more than 190 countries.

Nelson�s daughter Tia, an environmental activist in her own right, said progress depends on people understanding how climate change affects them. In an interview for the DNR publication, she said, "If you�re an outdoorsman or a fisherman, how are your opportunities for hunting and fishing affected by these changes? ... There's the mother who sees her child going through an asthma attack. Clean air will make a difference for that child. People need to see climate impacts that are local and relevant to them."

Kansas State University had a "Virtual Earth Day" on April 22 to promote these local connections. It was a come-and-go meeting people could join via Zoom teleconferencing. Although I "tuned in" late, I emailed a couple of presenters about their topics.

Sarah Inskeep, a K-State student majoring in physics and taking conflict analysis and trauma studies courses, mentioned some of the university's projects. These included the establishment of a new major in environmental science, an agreement with regional energy company Evergy to generate 50 percent of the university's electricity needs from wind power or other renewable energy sources, and using more natural landscaping on campus.

Melissa Kirkwood, the marketing and development officer for Manhattan's Sunset Zoo, also participated. She said the zoo's "Fifty for Fifty Earth Day Social Media Challenge" focuses on what individuals, families and the community can do to support wildlife, change a throw-away habit, or learn something new about the environment, during a 10-week campaign beginning April 20 and ending June 28 - a period including Earth Day on April 22 and World Oceans Day on June 8.

Doing a bit of searching, I discovered some quotes about honoring the Earth from some well-known people:

- "To leave the world better than you found it, sometimes you have to pick up other people�s trash." - Bill Nye

- "I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things we could use." - Mother Teresa

- "You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." - Jane Goodall

- "Nature never hurries: atom by atom, little by little, she achieves her work. The lesson one learns from yachting or planting is the manners of Nature; patience with the delays of wind and sun, delays of the seasons, bad weather, excess or lack of water." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

- "The earth is what we all have in common." - Wendell Berry

A few of the stanzas from the hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth" that I sang as a youngster also came to mind.

For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies;

For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flow'r,
Sun and moon, and stars of light;

For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and mind's delight,
For the mystic harmony,
Linking sense to sound and sight;

All of these things came together last Saturday. For three hours, I was in heaven - planting geraniums, trimming dead branches from our forsythia bushes, cleaning the flower bed where our peonies, irises and day lilies have popped up, and sweeping dead leaves from the driveway and depositing them on the hillside behind our house.

In past years, the end of winter, combined with the hustle and bustle of the approaching end of the school year, often left me feeling a bit worn and tired. So I was always grateful for the diversion that spring brought. But this year it felt even more important. Getting away from the news and embracing the Earth�s beauty that is everywhere around me, buoyed my spirits. It also made me hope I can be counted among its many inhabitants who are doing their part, who are helping preserve the beauty of the Earth.

Top-left: blossoms on one of our forsythia bushes; top-center: a tulip from the area around the mailbox; lower-left: the redbud tree off our deck; right: The setting sun coloring the clouds near the western horizon with shades of pink. And above the budding trees at the far upper left, the crescent moon is well on its daily journey across the sky.

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Other columns from 2020 may be found at: 2020 Index.
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