Wednesday, April 22, 2015

April 22, 2015 - Earth Day

They say today is “Earth Day,” as if it were a day different from any other day, as if it were a day set apart deliberately to be noticed.  “Happy Earth Day!” people are saying, as if it were a special holiday to mark on the calendar.  Perhaps tomorrow they will say, “Happy Mars Day!” or “Happy Jupiter Day!”  I expect either of these days to be coming soon.  After all, it would be unfair if we were to have an Earth Day and not, say, a Neptune Day or a Mercury Day.

Back to the woods I went to escape trite conversation.  I decided I would find out what day it really was by asking the forest inhabitants.  If they didn’t know, no one would.  I saw a blue jay and asked him, but he just flew on by.  I saw a snake and asked her, but she just slithered quickly away.  When I gave chase, she found an underground hideout and immediately slipped inside.  I saw a deer and asked her, but she bounded off before I even got the question out.  How was I to find out what day it really was?

The Earth Day squirrel.

I was about to give up when I found a busy squirrel.  I asked him what day it was, and he immediately turned to leave.

“Wait!!  I just want to know what day it is!” I said.  “No one will tell me what day it is!”
“Well, if you don’t know what day it is,” he said, “you must be a bit loopy, and that’s why everyone’s running.”
“Ah, so then it really is Earth Day!”
“What?”
“Earth Day,” I said, “Today is Earth Day, right?”
“I’ve never heard of it.”

Now it was my turn to ask what.  How could he not have heard of Earth Day?

“What do you mean you’ve never heard of Earth Day?” I asked.
“I’ve never heard of it.  Do you have any walnuts?”
“Earth Day is a special day,” I pressed.
“Why special?  Are there any walnuts given out on this Earth Day thing?”
“No, but it’s supposed to be special.”
“It doesn’t sound very special if there aren’t any walnuts,” he said.
“Well, it’s a day to remember the Earth.”
“What’s that?” he asked uninterestedly.

I guess he really hadn’t heard of Earth Day.  How strange to be a creature of the forest and not have heard of Earth Day.

“Well, it’s a day where we celebrate and honor where we live.”
“You celebrate your dens?” he asked.
“No, no, no.  I mean we celebrate this planet, this whole world,” I said.
He just looked at me and blinked, not understanding.
“We remember our commitment, love, and gratitude for this whole world and the life in it,” I said.

The squirrel looked at me as if I were quite mad.  He cocked his head from side to side, probably wondering whether he should high-tail it out of there in case I was somehow dangerous.  He picked up a tiny scrap of something and began munching it, looking at me curiously.

“And you need a special day to remember this?” he asked.
“Well, we don’t need it, but we have it because it kind of reminds us of it.”
“And you need to be reminded?”

Now it was my turn to just blink at him.  I cocked my head from side to side and looked around for any stray nut or seed that might have survived the winter, but alas, I found nothing.

“Earth Day is meant to be special,” I said, “so that we keep the planet--our only home, really--in mind now and then and remember to respect it.”

“Hmmm….” he said, “I think every day where I live, then, is Earth Day.  Every day is special.  When the sun comes up and warms the cold night air, it feels very special, indeed.  When I find something plump and juicy to eat, I feel very special and happy.  When I see a terrible thunder and lightning storm, I feel nothing but awe and respect, I can assure you.  When I sleep in my warm little home lined with dry straw and leaves, I feel very satisfied and content.  I love this day, and I love every day.  But…I don’t see any difference from one day to the next.  Each day, to me, seems wonderful.  But how else could a day be anything but wonderful?”

I kept picking around for nuts and seeds while I listened to him, pretending that what he was saying didn’t mean much to me, when in fact, it meant a great deal.  But if you let a squirrel know that, you’ll never hear the end of it.

“Quite right,” I said.
“No.  I think you’re stupid,” the squirrel said.
“I am not!  I’ve always known every day is special.”
“Whatever,” he said, “but there aren’t any nuts or seeds where you’re looking.  I’ve already picked that area completely clean.  You’re not the sharpest tool in the shed, you know.”
“I was just double-checking,” I said.
“Right,” he said, “Well, Happy Day to you, then.”
“Happy Day to you, too.”

And with that he scampered off.  I could have sworn I heard him saying “What a nut!” as he ran up a tree, but I can’t be entirely sure.  I was about to feel offended, but I decided that I wouldn’t let it spoil the beautiful weather.  It’s not that squirrels are rude, necessarily, but they don’t mince words either.  They call it as they see it.  Don’t ask them a question if you’re not ready to hear their answer.

I left then and went about my business.  It turned out to be a really Happy Day, just as yesterday had been and just as I am sure tomorrow will be.

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