“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.”
It seems like a crazy thing to do...be talking about Earth Day when people are killing left and right – shooting people ringing the wrong doorbell, getting in the wrong car, driving to the wrong address, and having a basketball that rolls into the wrong yard. Making mistakes, absolute mistakes driven by fear... overactive threat systems.
Hard to believe, but ... more focus on Earth Day, everyday, could be our solution. Getting more connected to the Earth…experiencing awe and wonder and compassion can set us straight.
I’m going to start with some excerpts from a Washington Post Article called: “Teaching your kids to love the night sky, no telescope required” published three days ago, written by Dustin Nelson…
<Excerpts> “We’re going stargazing,” I tell my three children as they assemble for breakfast.
Stargazing can feel daunting, especially for parents unfamiliar with the night sky themselves. Parents can also make the mistake of turning stargazing into a homework assignment, checking off boxes of how to stargaze “properly.” There is no right answer.
Psychologist Dacher Keltner, the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley, told The Washington Post that awe can have positive physical, mental and emotional effects.
“It makes us curious rather than judgmental. It makes us collaborative. It makes us humble, sharing and altruistic. It quiets the ego so that you’re not thinking about yourself as much,” he says.
There is an endless trove of wonders to look for in the cosmos: the moon, stars, constellations and planets, and that doesn’t even begin to touch on wow events like comets, meteor showers or the northern lights. It’s thrilling — and intimidating.
Head out into the night with a couple of objects in mind. It doesn’t have to be the night of a big event like the Perseid meteor shower, and you don’t have to start by trying to track down a hard-to-find phenomenon like the Crab nebula. Find the easy-to-spot Orion with its distinctive belt in the winter sky or a bright planet like Jupiter or Venus.
It’s not about producing future astrophysicists. The act of just being present in nature has its own benefits. Studies have shown that time spent in nature has huge benefits for kids, such as lowered stress levels and the promotion of cognitive development.
In our backyard, my wife points to a bright light near the moon. “Do you see that thing that looks like a star?” she asks the 4-year-old. “It’s actually a planet. It’s Venus.”
The night sky, looking up. It’s a proven strategy for feeling better, feeling more awe, more connected to the planet. Less fearful and threatened.
A few days ago, a friend, Lilia, who grew up in the Philippines shared her thoughts about Earth Day and observations about her homeland.
Lilia was born and raised in a little village on the biggest island of the Philippines, Luzon. The village sits at the foot of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range, the longest of the 3 mountain ranges in the country.
Sierra Madre is home to many species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. It is home to the famous national bird- the Monkey-eating Eagle, about 3 feet tall and 6 feet wingspan.
Lilia’s house was close to the forest and wooded area of the mountain. The wild animals - like the pigs, deer, chicken, cats - came down to her village. At noon, when the kids took their siesta, they could hear the birds singing and the monkeys with their loud noon story-time. There was a river where she learned to swim and catch crab and shrimp by hand and spear.
Lilia loved to tell her children about her growing up years – she took them back on trips to the Philippines. Inevitably the kids asked “so, where are the birds and monkeys and that 10 feet of pristine water where you could see the rocks at the bottom?"
Lilia tells them that it’s only a memory now. Things have changed. Roads built, trees logged. Birds gone.
It reminded me of what John and I saw when we visited the Amazon in Ecuador. The Amazon is tremendously important to the entire planet. The trees suck up much of the carbon dioxide for one thing. We saw the conflict of interests and values among those who wanted to drill oil, log, build dams, farm and those who were trying to save the rainforest.
These were things I never gave a second of thought to growing up in Tennessee. I totally took the earth for granted. I rarely experienced a moment of awe and wonder, never considered how the systems of the planet were connected.
But I’m wanting to change that now. My husband, John, helps.
I remember the time I experienced a scuba dive. Extraordinary! I had no idea what was under the water! John helps me look up, look around, look under - be curious, see the beauty, and open myself to wonder.
He took a few pictures yesterday of our flowers on our Flowery Divide hill... where I have learned to identify the Balsam root, the Lupine, Blue and Yellow Bells, Phlox of all sorts.
I’m also learning to be compassionate for my grandchildren …and the earth I hope they get to experience. Sure, it’s about becoming more educated AND especially it's about allowing ourselves to experience awe and wonder all around us.
I’m going to celebrate tomorrow, Earth Day, by doing a little clean up, but especially by looking up, looking around, and enjoying the earth. I'm hoping to make Earth Day an everyday thing.
It’s said that once you get to really know people, you cannot help but love them. Maybe it’s true of the Earth as well. Once we get to know her…who knows where that could lead?
Maybe it could lead not only to loving the Earth but all those on it.
How might we journey together to the Good Life by looking up, looking around, looking under and opening ourselves to loving the Earth?
Granddaughter's Eyes - great little music video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xb99Cznj9x8
Painting birdhouses and building bird feeders with friends, grandson, Eli posing for the camera. Thank you Julie and Dick Ryan for the direction and supplies!
One of the final birdfeeders installed
(I would love to hear your Earth stories, email: firstname.lastname@example.org)