Climate change…global warming…environment… The words are so familiar now. But that doesn’t mean they are easy to use, not with meaning at least.
I know—they represent huge areas of challenge for us—for everyone on our earth home. But the words feel too big to get your head around. Think of the thousands of studies, all the politics and money, and seemingly thousands of changes that need to be made.
I wondered, since these all these challenges concern the earth we live on, maybe we each need a starting place of our own…a literally physical place that connects our personal lives to the big picture.
So … I started in our back yard, then after a little bit of study, I wrote this down:
The Cherry tree behind our house
rises eighty feet above the ground.
Once a year our four grandsons perch
between its three diverging trunks
where we capture their growth in a photograph.
At least one boy will see how high he can climb one of the trunks.
The tree was likely there, though very small,
during the War Between the States.
But the river by our town…
that was here long before.
It was called O-wash-ta-nong
and, about ten thousand years ago,
like great Mishigami lake,
was carved in the earth by glaciers.
The tree, our house and our thriving town
perch between the ancient shores
of the winding river and the fresh water lake
on ground where tribes other than ours
once hunted, planted, fished and thrived.
And our whole Country squats on land
framed by two great salt seas.
The sea on the east bore white people here
a half millennium ago.
The sea on the west hides lands from us
from which the truest natives of this land
likely came some two thousand years ago,
by crossing the icy land bridge Beringia.
It seems our lives are taken up by living
here in the busy present,
and we have little time to mind
the past of the ground that sustains us
…the history of its verdant life
…the people who preceded us
…and like us wanted happy lives.
next time we chance to see
a mighty tree in someone’s yard
we might imagine what child
climbed its trunk long ago.
And when we walk at river’s side
with houses, docks and motor boats,
let’s imagine who it was
that fished and swam there
in centuries past.
For we are here for just a while
—even great grandchildren leave.
The water and the living earth
are more than lovely picture frames—
they hold us all and give us life,
and carry on when we are gone.