Dear Partners in Green,
Those of us living in Northern Hemisphere may feel caught in the doldrums of winter with its short, bitterly cold, gray days. Some believe that T.S. Elliot was wrong when he wrote that April was the cruelest month, that indeed it is February. For those of us concerned with Climate Change, even February’s few stretches of warmer weather will only serve to remind us of the reality of global warming. Where is the joy then, and where is the peace? And where is the energy to keep moving along the road to environmental health, for ourselves and for the world?
One answer might be found in the very word February, the month thought to have been named for the Latin term februum, the meaning of which is purification. Purification, the act of removing harmful substances from something. The question then arises; what are harmful substances? We know they include poisons and pollutants like lead paint, oil, plastics, batteries, even lead-laden sales receipts, but can’t harmful substances or entities also include our attitudes, including our feelings of hopelessness, depression, and powerlessness. And what of anger and rage?
It may seem counter-intuitive, but peace and strength and even hope may be found in Nature, the same Nature for which we carry the burdensome weight of concern.
In his essay, Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “In the woods we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes) which nature cannot repair.”*
So I am suggesting that you spend some time observing the natural world as the day light hours are increasing and the bulbs are starting to sprout. You may even feel like cleaning up your gardening tools or perhaps planting some garlic, or you may just prefer to walk around the yard or a park. If so, I highly recommend grabbing a pen and paper and writing down what you are seeing and feeling as you observe the world of Nature.
What colors do you see?
How does the air smell? How does the air feel?
What do you hear? What memories does it bring to mind? What emotions?
What would you like to say to the scene? What is it saying to you?
Simply write short phrases or one word lines. Writing in this way about your natural surroundings is itself a way of cleansing, of purification as it relieves stress and leaves you more connected to, and appreciative of, the world of nature. And you might just find yourself writing a poem, one that you may want to share.
February does not have to be cruel. It can be a month of empowerment and purification and even recommitment.
Speaking of which, this might be a good time to recommit to those New Year’s Resolutions, and you might consider adding a few more.
- Hold off on upgrading your phone, computer, or TV. According to data from 2011, in the US, only 20% of e-waste is formally recycled. Globally, nearly 70% of e-waste is dumped in landfills, burned illegally or illegally transported to other countries where it is taken apart by hand.*
- Limit the time you spend on the phone, and computer and watching television, all of which take electricity.
- Continue to avoid habitual shopping. The carbon footprint and environmental carnage of cargo planes, cargo ships and trucks is almost beyond comprehension.
- If you use wood pellets, you might want to reconsider their use. The pellets are often not made from wood left over from forestry operations, but made from whole trees, often centuries old hardwoods from old growth forests.
- Read the poems of Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, or William Stafford among many others.
- Journal about this green journey on which you are now traveling.
I chose February Song by Josh Grogan not only because of its title and its beauty, but because it can represent how the world at its craziest may feel, and how difficult it can be to have to find the answers on one’s own.
Wishing you an empowering and meaningful February,
Thank you for being on this journey.
Till next time,
*Emerson, Ralph Waldo, Selected Essays, Lectures, and Poems (New York: Bantam Books, 1990) 18.
*Schlossberg, Tatiana, inconspicuous consumption, the environmental footprint you don’t know you have ( New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2019) 64.