“Oh, Earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it—every, every minute?”
Thornton Wilder, Our Town, Daily Word, from inwardoutward.org, August 2, 2016.
Emily speaks these memorable lines in the play, Our Town, after she returns to earth for one day to Grover’s Corners since her young untimely death at age twenty-six. She chooses her twelfth birthday and soon can no longer bear watching as the people she loves barely interact with each other.
I am writing on Earth Day and listening to music about the earth such as Beethoven’s Sixth Pastoral Symphony as we travel from a reunion in Virginia to the gulf coast. This symphony always reminds me of the four years we lived in Iowa City. The music was the background for a visual production of the Iowa outdoors called, Iowa, A Place to Grow, which always reminded us to bloom where we were planted and appreciate the beauty of the earth and the people of that state.
I remember the first Earth Day in 1970. It was the day my husband of six months left for Vietnam for a year. I was pregnant with our first child and feeling very sorry for myself. I spent the day watching the Earth Day celebration on our small black and white television and stripping the wax off the floor of our kitchen. I knew I had to transform the energy generated by Robert’s leaving into something useful. I wish I was able to write that I went out and planted trees, but alas, my kitchen floor was as far as I got.
We are driving through a gentle rain and the car radio is now playing American composer, Alan Hovhaness’ tribute to a beloved tree on his uncle’s farm struck by lightning, Under The Ancient Maple Tree. I wish I could say I participated in some marvelous events to care for and thank our earth and especially its trees on the other forty-eight Earth Days since, but I honestly cannot remember another Earth Day. Today the best I can do is enjoy the ride, give thanks for the rain, and give thanks for the bountiful green trees keeping us alive along Interstate 85.
I think of my father who was a forester who lead many hundreds of expeditions to plant pine seedlings. I remember on trips how he often would point out the tall grown trees that he had planted. I thank him now for his plantings many years later.
I have learned along the way that our environment, the outdoors, especially trees keep us grounded to the present moment. This is the present moment that I think Emily is talking about where we learn to appreciate each precious gift of time especially with those we love. My experience is that I most often begin to live in the present moment when I am outdoors and see the trees and plants and realize that there is something greater going on than the past and the future that I am concerned about.
CS Lewis and so many others and now Emily tell us that the present moment, not the past or the future, is where we meet and recognize God, the Creator, the God of Love.