Celebrating Earth

Have you ever considered the nursemaid tree? It is the tree that fosters the growth of another tree by providing the rich nutrients a young sapling needs in the forest, even after its own growth has ended. Dictionary.com defines nursemaid as “…to take care of or look after protectively.” Sometimes I wonder just who is protecting whom. The nursemaid tree provides the nutrients and a pedestal for new growth, helping a seedling to get that much closer to the sun it needs. The roots of the young tree hug its nursemaid, the simple beauty of it calling to us to remember that without the tree that once was standing, a new tree would not have taken root. The nursemaid tree is alive no longer, yet the essence of it lives on, flourishing, the atoms shared between the two.

The Earth is our nursemaid in a way, though not (yet) a no longer living thing, it provides the nutrients we need, combining its own atoms with those that form our own bodies. It has been around so much longer  than us; knows the secrets of history that have gotten us here today. It gives us firm standing so that we may grow, but do we provide the same care to it? Do we take into account that without it, we would cease? Do we understand that the elements in it become elements within us? As chemicals leech the soil, our own bodies are leeched of healthy substances we need to thrive. We use chemicals in everything from food to beauty products, sacrificing health for ease and beauty. We contaminate our rivers and soil with detrimental runoff so that things around us will be beautiful today, without thought to how changed the soil will be next year.

Today is April 22 – Earth Day. It was officially first celebrated in 1970 and has since then grown and spread to communities across the globe. It is a day dedicated to cleanups, recycling, and relishing in nature, thankful for the bounty the Earth has provided and keeping an eye toward maintaining the value of that bounty in years to come. You have the opportunity to be both the beneficiary of a nursemaid and to become one yourself for future generations. What nutrients and strengths will you pass on? How tall will your pedestal grow? How strong will the sapling be that grows from your protective care?

Make the Earth strong = Make yourself strong

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Edit your home

A reassembled cake plate and simple pennant banner herald the flowers of summer

There are some fantastic photo editing programs out there, whether for your Smartphone, your iPad, your point-and-shoot DSLR. The great thing about these programs is that they allow you to see things in new ways. The photo of you and your sister from the 80’s with the terrible hair can be cropped, colorized, highlighted and refocused to pinpoint in on the little hand that reached out to pinch your derriere just as the shutter clicked. Pictures of babies now even more resemble angelic cherubs with soft-focus halos, just the same way their adoring parents see them.

If only that software could be turned on our own homes. The walls would go from drab, bland spaces to collections pulled together to highlight a quirky interest in squirrels featured in a variety of wall hangings and possibly a table topper or two. Our bedrooms would go from piles of clothes strewn about to calm, restful spaces with a throw oh-so-effortlessly draped at the foot of the bed, just like in the magazines.

We have a tendency to see all of the flaws with the spaces we live in, rather than taking the time to stop and focus on what the heart of the problem is with the picture. Set your viewfinder on one area, look at the various filters that could be applied. The clothes all over? What if you invested in a closet system that would better accommodate those sweaters so they weren’t bulging out of drawers? That would also free up extra drawer space that could be dedicated to the workout clothes you search for in those early morning hours, reducing the need to toss all of the non-workout clothes out of the drawer during your frantic search (bonus #2: 5 more minutes of sleep!). Filter applied!

Take the same approach room by room, or even just on a certain area of a room. Focus on what isn’t working in the space, look at it with a different filter or change in perspective. Can’t get it to work, even in a different place? Maybe it is time to let it go. Highlight those things that make the prettiest picture to you!

From the Closet to the Open Door

Recently, I had the opportunity to help a friend go through a closet. She was a bit hesitant at first, I think wondering what I would think/feel/say going through her things (or for that matter, what she would think/feel/say watching me go through her things), but by the end of our mini-session, I think both of us felt as light as the now much more streamlined closet shelves.

It was a bit ceremonious when we opened up the sorting bags, one for “toss”, one for “donate”, plus those lucky few who landed back on the shelves in a more orderly fashion. It was the release of items that had either fully served their purpose or those that had served their purpose for this family, but still had purposeful use in them. There is something restorative in readying yourself for the send-off of “things” that may have been bringing you down even only subconsciously. It isn’t just “things” that can fill our closet shelves either – it is the baggage tied to it. It is the “That was a gift from Aunt Martha!”, or the “I always wanted to learn how to do that skill.” We see things as the representation of what we often wish we were or what we were at one point in time. Letting go can be the moment we allow ourselves to move on to something new, to recognize that life changes, as do our desires.

I think that often we get bogged down, reluctant to let go of one item or another because we fear that just when we let it go, we will realize how much we needed it! (And the chances of that if you haven’t needed it in 5+ years?) However, if the change in thought can be made from “What if I need it again?” to “Could someone else use this more than me?”, the shift focuses from the selfish to the self-less; we recognize that desire in ourselves to help others, even by giving up something for ourselves.

Set aside 20 minutes and go through that one shelf. Examine each item and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is it something I have used within the past 1-2 years and how likely am I to use it again?
  2. If the answer was no, is it something that holds either monetary value (and I should sell it) or does it hold a lot of sentimental value (and would a picture of the item do just as good of a job in bringing back those memories so I can free up the space)?
  3. Could someone else have more use for it than me?

By the end of our closet cleaning endeavor, my friend had filled up three bags with items to donate and had an entire shelf empty for the first time in years! Some of the items she no longer had use for are now wonderfully gracing my shelves and each time I see them, I appreciate the kindness that went with their sending off from her home to mine.

This I Believe

I believe that life is more than just a series of days.
I believe that moments both large and small make us who we are.
I believe that if you wait for the just the “right” whatever, you’ll be waiting forever.
I believe that putting thoughts, dreams and wishes “out there” helps them become more real.

I believe in shopping local and supporting the arts.
I believe in paying a higher price for a unique item from a small business that I want to see stay in the community.
I believe in investing in the quality of something that will last.
I believe that we must always have access to printed books.

I believe in the balance of technology and nature and that both are vital.
I believe in re-envisioning – objects, articles of clothing, lives.
I believe that it isn’t always the amount of food that harms us, but what is in the food.
I believe that communities are more than just people living on the same block or same state.

I believe that it truly does take a village to raise a child.
I believe that mud, scrapes and silly faces are just as vital to childhood as reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.
I believe in not being embarrassed when the neighbors see me turn up the music and dance with my children in the middle of the afternoon.
I believe that the essence of life is connection, exploration and appreciation.