Good morning, Earthlings! Today is Earth Day – the day when we make an extra special effort to express gratitude and lovingkindness to our incredible Mother Earth! It’s like the Mother’s Day of planets. And although I’m inclined to believe that we should be living like every single day is earth day, sometimes Earth Day is a great starting point for making lasting changes or the kick in the pants we need to get us involved in an environmental community effort.
I’m speaking to myself here because I realized last month during my “breakup haze” that I have lived in this town for almost 6 months and haven’t gotten involved in ANY environmental efforts in the community thus far. Volunteering at the therapeutic riding center has me working with human and animal members of the community, but my hippy heart needs to work with some of our chlorophyll-filled community (aka plants. Did you know that I worked at a greenhouse right after I left corporate America? Yup. Back in the 2017 greenhouse days) Well, it was then and there in my depression that I decided to find some fun, environmentally-conscious, outdoorsy type things to do around town. Maybe my two picks will encourage you to find similar activities in your own community!
#1. Shop at the Community Farmers Market
These last three weeks I have been absolutely, gloriously, blissed-out by my local farmers market. I’m like a kid in a candy store at the market. I’ve had to give myself budget lectures because the spending started to go a little crazy on the vegetables, haha. I forgot how much I enjoy getting up early and driving to the market to enjoy all the special goods that nature has to offer. For a while now I’ve been in such a habit of eating whatever is cheap and easy, and things have been so weird in my life lately that I honestly forgot what it was like to build a relationship with a farmer and enjoy produce as the season brings it to us.
When I lived up north I had access to a hippy area of town where no chain restaurants were allowed, parking lots where non-existent, and where you could expect to find massive farmers markets. You could walk around and literally eat for hours without running out of fresh, amazing food options. There were farmers there frying up fresh-from-the-farm bacon and topping that with thick, juicy slices of tomato and crisp, leafy lettuce for a BLT that was a transcendent experience. And don’t get me started on the kombucha on tap, or the popsicle stand, or the juice bar. You could easily blow through a couple hundred dollars at that market! No lie.
For some reason it wasn’t until I found out that my friend sells her floral bouquets at local markets that I even thought to visit our farmer’s market. That first day I bought a baby head of lettuce for THREE DOLLARS but after one bite from that rich, green, straight-from-the-farm head of romaine lettuce I wondered why I ever settled for those pale green, tasteless heads of Walmart lettuce.
Now the market and my favorite coffee shop have become my little weekend ritual. I get up early for my habitual meditation and yoga, head off to the market to hobnob with the farmers that grow my food, and then head to my favorite cafe for breakfast and a morning of writing. It makes my life feeling like it’s put together for some reason, plus it’s kinda nice to have a quirky place to write on my day off.
Speaking of lettuces… I was talking to one of the farmers at the market last week and he commented that there were only 3-4 more weeks left in the growing season for his romaine lettuces. Once the days and the nights are consistently warm the plants go to seed and then it’s all downhill from there. The plants soon turn bitter and die. That got me thinking about what it would be like to only enjoy lettuce for a couple of months out of the year. And THAT got me thinking about what our agriculture system goes through to ensure that we have what we want to eat and when we want to eat it.
But as any basic lesson in economics will teach you: there is no such thing as a free lunch. All of these agricultural advances come at a price of some sort. And in my observation the health and wellbeing of people and planet is often overlooked in preference of profit. In all my years of purchasing my own food I don’t think I really thought about what it would be like to eat ONLY those foods that were in season. But it would be simple to know what was in season in your area because if you found it at your local farmers’ market then it’s in season, haha. As Aibileen from The Help says, “If you can’t find it on the side of the road – it ain’t in.”
Shopping local makes me feel like a part of a community, and I also like to volunteer when I can. Back in the day when I lived up north I used to volunteer for the city zoo. But lemme tell ya nothing will make you want to become a vegan faster than watching human beings pathetically attempt to care for wild animals. I was an assistant zoo keeper to marine mammals and forest carnivores, so I worked with everything from tigers to dolphins. The “behind the scenes” type things I learned about zoos might be quite surprising to most. But now I live in a small town and I’m bored from not meeting people of my tribe – aka people who care about their consumption level, and environmental impact, and shopping local.
#2 Volunteer at my local nature center
I actually learned about the opportunity to volunteer at my local nature center while standing in line for the bathroom at my favorite coffee house. The wall outside the bathroom is covered floor the ceiling with cork board and the owners allow local business to advertise there. Turns out the nature center is offering a week’s worth of volunteer activities for Earth Week plus a new weekend volunteer program for those who want to stay on after Earth Week ends. And in return they give us free admission for their boat tours of the local caves which is sweeeeeeet because that boat tour is on my summer fun list and I was trying to find a way to be cheap about it, haha. They also have zip lining tours. Anyone up for flying through the trees with me this summer?!
I signed up for two days during Earth Week (yesterday and this Friday) and will probably join for several Saturdays during the Summer as well. I must say, it was nice to meet some of “my tribe” yesterday. I love talking to people who know about plants and care to conserve them. They also started a litter awareness project in the area too so they are now keeping a running total of how many pounds of garbage they collect from the nature center each month. It really makes me think about how much garbage I throw away every day. That garbage ends up somewhere on this beautiful planet even if I’m kind enough to put it in a garbage can instead of chucking it out my window.
We’ve been tasked with helping the nature center clear out non-native plant species that are overtaking the various habitats at the center. Definitely an aerobic workout (but have I mentioned that I hate paying for gyms?), but also quite fun. Plus an afternoon of working alongside hot conservationists with tattoos as we help nature stay natural? Count me in! I ripped winter creeper vine outta the ground for 2.5 hours on my hands and knees, so I’m definitely feeling that this morning. I will say, though, that I think the yoga training gave me some strength and stability advantages nonetheless, haha.
By the way, have you ever had a strange urge to do something? Well…as I was ripping vines out of the earth the sun was streaming though the trees and the dirt felt so cool and nice that I had this weird desire to lay down on the ground right then and there. Thankfully, I resisted. I want the hot guys to still talk to me when I come back for another shift on Friday, haha. And also when I return for my boat tour…and my zip lining 😛
I’ve recently been encouraged to find some ways to get outta my head and do something loving for the earth and for my community. So here’s my little encouragement for you today on this bright, sunny Earth Day: Spend some time in gratitude for this planet that has been entrusted to us. The responsibility is ours to be kind to it and to lead by example ways to express lovingkindness to the earth. And then may you find ways to share your talents, and your time, and your kindness in ways that are outside of your head and rich in dirt and foliage. Nature is a gift. Let’s be grateful for it.
Happy Earth Day!
There are two ways to live:
as if nothing is a miracle,
or as if everything is a miracle.Albert Einstein