Daniela Ginta, The Mindful Writer

Freelance Writer and Photographer, Author of the Mindfulness Blog

Category: Homeschooling Page 2 of 5

The Magic You See When You Close Your Eyes

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on November 20, 2017. 

Late afternoon Saturday found us at our neighbours’. My husband was to lend a helping hand lifting a potato and onion box our neighbour built for his wife. There was no defined B-line between walking in, moving the said box, sharing stories of old and new, and the time when we were all seated in the living room, our boys and dog included, their dog too, listening to Todd playing his guitar. It just happened.

He played a Johnny Cash song first and then a composition of his own. His fingers picked gently at the chords and his voice waltzed with the guitar sounds at a mesmerizing rhythm. The magic of those shared moments of beauty made my thoughts burrow deep inside where I only seldom get to go; life’s hurried that way. During Todd’s song I closed my eyes, so I could better see the place he was describing, the wind-swept islands of Haida Gwaii.

That sent me straight to my favourite quote by Helen Keller ‘The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they have to be felt with the heart.’ This quote stuck to me back in high school because there was something she was alluding to that I was not sure how to describe or get myself close to do so, but I knew it was true and worthwhile. Many life stumbles later including births, deaths, farewells and new beginnings, moments alone and with people that hold my heart in theirs, I started to understand more. You get to see more by closing your eyes. It’s where the soul fairies live and dance.

Todd’s song and his words opened the door towards that state of wonder. In the softly lit living room and with all of us in a spell, I was reminded that I could see better if I closed my eyes. It brought me to tears, for many reasons amalgamated. Todd is blind, you see. And yet, since we met him, I’ve learned that he sees more than many of us do with our intact, or close to, vision.

He sees those he meets in a way that few of us do. He listens in a way few of us do. He lives a fuller life that many of us do, simply because he does not take any given day for granted. I got to learn that since I made his acquaintance.

I met him shortly after we moved in mid-November. I was returning from an afternoon walk with the dog. I said hello and introduced myself. I introduced my family too, in absentia. Might as well, since we live across the back lane. Our dog, an overt people lover, budged in with much curiosity and smelled his hand. Todd stooped down and petted her, remarking on her soft coat and snuggly nature. Then he asked me to describe her.

Ah, I realized he could not see. I described her as accurate as I could. We chatted some more, and I left bewildered. Not because I had met a person who was blind, but because when I greeted him in the back lane and introduced myself, I actually interrupted him from work. His shirt was peppered with wood dust and so were his hands.

Soon after, I met his wife, Maggie. Her smile is just as heartful as his, which is why we never just say hello and get going. There’s always an extra life bit shared. It’s better that way.

Todd is often in his workshop. He builds furniture and makes beautiful things, many of which adorn their home. His hands tell stories of many a happy hour spent in the shop. Yes, you may wonder, like we did ‘But… how can he do that?’ He’d laugh at that and say he does it the same way anyone else does; with care. With love and dedication, I’d add. Lots of it.

The same way he learned to play guitar, which he did after the accident that left him blind, in his mid-twenties. From one day to the next, his world turned black. You need a heap of grace and resilience not only to go through that, but to grow, despite of it. Todd has both, plus a whole lot of determination.

To do his full-time job, and hold the volunteering positions he’s been taking over the years, many of which made him instrumental in designing the blind-friendly features that the streets and public buildings of Kamloops now have. In a world we take for granted, he sees so much more that can be improved on. It’s humbling. And even more humbling is to hear that on more than one occasion people address his wife rather than him directly, assuming that his handicap prevents him from being who he actually is. Indeed, it takes grace to know that.

My husband and I tell Todd that he types faster than both of us combined and he laughs a hearty laugh. He shows the boys how he does it, and then he sends each of them an email. They’ll email him back in a couple of days. He makes a deal with our youngest to exchange jokes, they both seem to have a knack for it.

We say goodbye after we plan another get together. Again, I find myself bewildered. Both Todd and his wife are as warm as can be, gently embracing each other’s presence and building a space for us, their friends, to come as we are. It’s called grace. It’s called gratefulness. When I grow up, I want to be like them.

You Are Human Before Anything Else; It’s What’s Left Behind

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on October 16, 2017 

Saturday was a cold, wet, and slightly dreary day, though rain was such precious commodity during the summer that I cannot get myself to dislike it, no matter how much I miss the sun. On our way to the farmer’s market, my oldest son and I bumped into Vaughn Warren, who was as enthusiastic as ever about the time capsule that was about to be attached to the new Freemont Block sign he was recently commissioned to restore. Come by the Makerspace between 3 and 5 today, he said, so you can sign a postcard for the time capsule.

Most of the day had already been scheduled for a few activities but we made it there a few minutes before 5. The sign looked beautifully vibrant and the table next to it was full of cards, photos, and other mementos to be sealed in the time capsule. We signed the guest book and then proceeded to write something on the card before writing down our names.

I had to stop a while and think. This was something that someone, a hundred years from now, will read and think about for a few moments. Much like I was taking my time trying to stretch my thoughts to the other side of the hundred years, that person, or people, will be trying to imagine what it was all like here, now.

An exercise in humbleness if you will. A hundred years from now on I will be long gone, and so will my sons, most likely. Sobering indeed. It’s a thought that makes you hear all the noises in the room suddenly, and makes you see everything around in a different light. It makes you shudder, too. there is a finality attached to you and your life, and there’s no two ways about it. It’s part of the deal. A rainy, cold day is the day you’re in, a gift like no other, and not a dreary time slot you can’t wait to be done with.

The day was already inviting to a lot of reflection regarding the thin line between life and death we’re all due to cross at some point. It was my late friend Richard Wagamese’s birthday (he would’ve turned 62,) and it was the day chosen for Christopher Seguin’s funeral service. Their passing, as well as the passing of some many people I’ve known over the years, my parents and other close relatives included, left me with a cloud of questions: What matters after all, what is worth striving for while you’re alive and what will the others remember of you once you’re gone?

From all that I’ve seen so far, it’s not the material things but the heart matters that live on. They do not only linger, but continue to grow and fill that empty space one leaves behind once they’re gone. The things we do because we choose to show and wear our humanity with pride and gratefulness is what matters; it’s what will inspire those who miss us to keep on going, choose to act with courage and joy, and leave a mark on the world by allowing their humanity to shine through as they live their days.

It is the whole range of acts that count, not just the ones that are news-worthy. It’s the mark we leave behind us when no one’s watching. The gestures, big or small, that can restore someone’s smile, restore someone’s trust in humanity and change the way people around us choose their next steps, so that their hearts show through.

When we choose to live heartfully and with compassion, there’s glowing that transcends your immediate presence. It’s the kind of hopeful shiny stuff that guides those left behind you towards decisions better suited for the greater good, less judgment and more compassion towards those who need it.

A few days ago, I read about an incident in Williams Lake. An elderly man was lying on the ground in a parking lot after having suffered a heart attack, and though many people passed by, no one stopped. Eventually, a woman stopped and called an ambulance, informed the man’s family south of the border about his condition, and took care of his vehicle and boat (the man was on his way to an annual fishing trip with friends.)

Whatever accomplishments the woman who saved his life has achieved so far or will from now on, that she showed her humanity at a time when someone needed it the most is something she will be remembered forever by the man she saved and by his family. Perhaps she will inspire many to be compassionate rather than judge.

Visuals can be awfully deceptive at times. Wearing one’s heart to be seen as we walk through life never is. That’s what I hope a hundred years from now people will still value and strive for. Because before w are anything else, we are human. That is the gift that is handed to us when we’re born, the one we’re supposed to make the most of while we’re alive, and the one we’re leaving behind when we go. That’s what I’ve learned so far from those who lived letting their hearts walk alongside. It’s the kind of legacy humans ought to bestow onto humans.

What About The Kids?

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, September 11, 2017. 

A few years ago, when my sons were still in public school (now homeschooled), we would get a lunch program to peruse and choose from if we wanted to. We chose nothing, not because we’re fussy, but because the options were deplorable.

One of the options was called taco salad. ‘It’s a salad made of tortilla chips, Mom,’ my oldest announced a couple of weeks later, rather bemused, when he got to see the very dish. No matter how you turn it, that is not food.

Feeding children can be a wild adventure at times, given occasional pickiness and all, but that’s no excuse feeding them junk food or low-quality ingredients as part of the school lunches. Not when we live in the middle of a farm-rich country and there is an abundance of fresh, wholesome foods that could be worked into school lunches.

I am willing to say that more parents would sign up for the program if there were healthy options, and would welcome the break from figuring out next day’s lunch. There is a high chance that many kids would learn about healthy food and be better for it. Which could be amplified if students would have a garden to tend to right on school grounds. You see, gardening invites to more than planting and picking, with the occasional weeding in between.

Gardening means learning about soil and all its wondrous components, from chemical compounds to bugs of all sizes that keep it healthy; it opens the door to learning about how liquids travel through soil and how they get absorbed through the roots. It involves delving into the biochemistry of the cell and if you add a microscope to the mix, you can get hours of intense studying, which will be followed by more curiosity. From there, you get to how fruit and veggies grow, and from there on, it moves into the realm of eating good-for-you foods.

Which isn’t anything that I saw in the school district’s lunch program I happened to come across. Chicken bites, chicken burger, chicken nuggets, all served cold, followed by some fruit slices and either juice or chocolate milk or plain milk. Fruit juice is empty calories that do not benefit children or anyone else for that reason. Eating the whole fruit is where it’s at.

Again, this is happening right here where we see ripe fruit that falls on the ground all summer and fall too, from cherries to apricots to plums, apples, and pears. On top of it, we have a farmer’s market so plentiful this time a year, that it would only make sense to use some of that to provide good food for children. Just imagine connecting local farmers to the department that organizes school lunches in the district.

That being said, there will be a chorus telling me that many kids prefer junk food and they would scoff at healthy (deemed boring by some) food options. Be it so, it should be part of a school mandate to educate about healthy food options. In an age where child obesity and chronic health issues starting in childhood are on the rise, that would be a moral duty, to say the least. That’s one of the reasons why I never refer to junk or processed foods as ‘treats’, but call them by their name.

Living a long, healthy life involves no magic.  Eat wholesome meals, mostly veggies, and never until full, get outside, get moving, and connect with people. In a nutshell. To keep with the scope of this piece, I will ask this: how many kids nowadays are doing all or some of the above?

There are too many processed food options (with attractive advertisements), there are devices that make them sit in one place for hours on end, there is the culture of fear where parents do not want/dare to let their kids play outside on their own, and there is, at society level, for the most part, a growing and deeply worrying trend of living life in an isolated, often self-centered way.

Many of our children are anxious, depressed, obese, or plagued by other eating disorders; some are bullied, others are bullying, at war with the world around them. They all start out eager to learn about the world around (healthy foods included,) and then somewhere down the road they become self-conscious, bored, tired, fearful, addicted to screens and drugs. Reclaiming them becomes the hardest task.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Fixing a generation (or more) is no easy thing. As always, one step at a time is where we can start. No drugs can ever fix what healthy food, free play, and time spent together can.

Hippocrates once said, ‘Let food be thy medicine.’ Let’s start with that. Make every bite, treats included, count. As for the rest of the issues, perhaps we should go back to forming the village needed to raise a child. A connected community is where better things happen. When it comes to our children, no effort is too big to make that happen.

Holding Onto Hope Is The Only Way Out

Originally published as a column in CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, June 5, 2017. 

I admit to no longer looking forward to checking the news. After a weekend spent with my family, out of reception, on the shore of a little-known lake near Little Fort, the return to the fast-moving, permanently-connected-to-the-internet world, is nowhere near pleasant.

We had a weekend of stories and adventures, laughter over the silly antics of a dog so happy to be exploring the woods and jumping into the lake as she pleased, and full of the togetherness that words like ‘family camping’ do not do justice to. We went paddling in early mornings and late evenings when the water is as smooth as glass and the haunting calls of the loons are but wrapping around your thoughts like vines.

The phone was but a camera. When we left on Friday I was still processing the troubling thoughts caused by the US president’s decision to withdraw his country from the Paris climate change agreement. Overwhelming is an understatement. We are not yet in dire straights environmentally speaking, not over where we are anyway, but the threads that hold it all together disappear with every bad decision.

Lately I have been immersed in a book called ‘The right to be cold’ by Sheila Watt-Cloutier. It is a fascinating read with lots of Inuit history and, at the same time, an accurate and heartbreaking description of the way life in the Arctic has been affected by many factors, mainly climate change. The climate change-induced transformations of the Arctic world are happening twice as fast compared to changes in the rest of the world. A cautionary tale at best.

Yet, there are still climate change deniers. That I will never understand. I’d do but one thing to appeal to their minds and hearts: I’d take them to one of the many places where the sun splashes on a lake trying to coax waterlilies to reach to the surface, and you feel dwarfed by trees of all kinds shading delicate fairy slippers, wild strawberry flowers and newly emerged arnica flowers. Then I’d ask: What if this corner of paradise and many others would cease to exist? What if basic life needs could no longer be satisfied because the planet is simply not enabling for it?

There is still time. There’s hope.

A recent study done in Germany concluded that planting trees to sink carbon is simply not enough to counteract the effects of climate change. Though trees do absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, which makes new trees grow a lot faster due to its high concentrations these days, we would need immense surfaces – the equivalent of all the agricultural land plus some more, if we are to slow down climate change. We need to let go of fossil fuels and focus on alternatives.

Yet letting go of hope is not an option, no matter how deeply disturbing one president’s decision to embrace denial is. Hope we must, hope we will. There are still many countries (some US states too), committed to act towards making life on earth last, Canada included, which is a comforting thought.  Yes, Canada will have to forgo pipelines and dams and LNG soon enough if the commitment is to be a fruitful one.

That was, as I said, the thought context in which I entered the blissful ‘out of reception’ zone with my loved ones. Upon our return, connection grabbed onto our phones half an hour or so after leaving the campsite.

We got home, unloaded, scrubbed dishes, and sorted through the camping gear to store it away till next time. It was my oldest who checked the news first. There was another attack in London, he said.

More people senselessly killed, others critically wounded, more fear and terror spreading, more questions that will remain, once again, unanswered.

I know this is but the one of the facets news outlets focus on. I know that the famine in South Sudan is beyond tragic and millions are on the brink of death due to starvation and diseases; that boats of hopeful migrants, many of whom children, still engage in crossing the Mediterranean in search of a better life, and that the Middle East is still ravaged by bombings, and senseless dying happens everywhere you look.

It’s that and more that made me steer away from connecting back to the world. It’s sad, it’s scary, it’s angering, and it’s not going to end anytime soon, unfortunately. Yet, just like I stated above, it’s hope we must commit to. There simply is no better way.

Hope makes anger dwindle; when solutions are needed, rather than more resentment, hope, and willingness to hold onto what makes us human (kindness is what comes to mind first) must be strengthened. It’s the hardest thing at times.

Whenever dark, hopeless thoughts invade my mind, I seek the one refuge that somehow stays unaltered every time: the hope that the world can be changed. It takes many (most of us?) but it’s possible. Somehow, some of the areas of the drawing board on which we sketch life have become blackened by horror acts and fear. But the big picture can still be lit up if enough well-wishing hands keep on sketching bright, hopeful bits of life. It takes many. Most of us and each of us.

Of Books And Mothers And Celebrating Both

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on Monday May 15, 2017. 

I grew up with books. Our living room had tomes lined up in tall bookcases covering entire walls, floor to the ceiling almost. When you’re a kid, that is as close to infinity as it gets. I loved climbing to some of the highest shelves and reaching to the back row where old books hid both enticing adventures and that smell of old paper that to this day is one of the most comforting smells there is.

That smell meant the world was all right. It still does, though much has happened since and my world changed in many ways over, some happier than others. Every year in the spring, the same mix of emotions and memories finds its way into my mind. Lilac flowers, bright morning sunshine, memories of my parents’ chatting in the kitchen over coffee, books to get lost in.

Many of the books I read as a kid and later on during adolescence were suggested to me by my Mom. No ‘you should read this’ but instead, she would tell me why she liked this or that book. She made me curious. Some stories came in many volumes, and far from being intimidated by the number of pages to read, I often felt a deep feeling of regret when the story was over.

I believe the writers of such great stories aimed to leave readers with that sense of regret in order to cultivate a love of reading and ensure they’ll search for the next written adventure. My parents would often make references to books that touched them in one way or another, which made me read them. You could say I was learning about my parents from a different perspective, learning the depths of their hearts and at the same time wading into getting to know mine.

To this day, reading brings me close to my parents. The love of reading they opened my mind and heart to was not confined only to books. They told stories too, some real-life ones of their own and many gleaned from books: fairy tales, adventures, sad stories, poems. Both my parents are gone now so my attempts to dissolve the very boundaries that separate our worlds are carried on with books.

I aim to do the same for the boys. We have many books in our home. Because we homeschool, we have entire shelves dedicated to subjects such as math, all flavours of science, grammar, history, geography, and languages. But we have adventure books, silly and serious, we have many entrenching conversations about books and we often fill the library book basket with treasures.

We read together, we read separately, each with whatever grips the heart and mind the most, and we marvel at treasures that we find in used bookstores, which we all love to get lost in occasionally, whether in Kamloops or on the road.

Yes, my Mom would beam to see all of this, and she’d smilingly approve of our bookwormy forays. It’s the thing that lasts when life as we know it brings itself to an untimely end. It’s what I wish my boys to look back on and smile at the memories we’ve seeded along the way.

Because of all of this and more, I was touched, not in the kindest of ways, by the latest news on book recycling in Kamloops. It won’t happen anymore. Makes one wonder about the plethora of books lying around. What’s in store for them?

If you visit thrift stores and used books stores you’re likely familiar with the overwhelming number of books that bend the shelves downwards. There are so many of them and very little, if any, room for more. A good thing, indeed, to be inundated by books, unless we stop to ponder on the ongoing shortening of children’s attention span nowadays and the overall little reading being done in our society. Blame it on the interminable, addicting TV programs and other types of screen-related activities, as well as the fast pace of life that makes leisure time feel sinful.

It’s not. It is perhaps more sinful to throw books in the landfill and at the same time, inundate the stores with more. An unfortunate consequence of mixing money with books, and at the same time preying on the very human curiosity regarding the next best thing… We have become so primed for it.

There are many beautiful, profound reads out there, and there is, unfortunately, a lot of fluff, for young and old alike, not that books have an age. The classics have been rendered boring and less engaging by many, and they are sold for peanuts, though the wisdom they hold is priceless. They are the first ones to see the landfill from up close.

So where to from here? Saving the books seems like a fool’s errand. I’d start with saving the love of reading. Saving our leisure and reading time from the bad time-thieves out there, and safeguarding stories and books and memories that our children can carry with them, literally and otherwise, all the way to the side of life where their children will once grow up and they will be encouraged to learn the value hidden in tomes.

My mother would feel honoured to know how much books mean to me because of her gentle nudging to reach for the ones at the back of the highest shelves. It’s been a worthy adventure.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Life Bites. Chew Slowly

If light could be song, this morning’s bright appearance was a symphony, loud and overwhelming. The green is exploding everywhere, soft and decidedly stubborn, hijacking the desert’s brownish, dry demeanour for a few weeks from now.

Trails are narrower because grass and dandelions claim the edges. Tread with care, but should the dog venture off the path…not a worry, there’s bounciness to cover the tracks so she can start all over again. After all, there are birds to be chased. Pup is the smile and laughter machine. She’s a song playing new each day, sauntering and jumping and then crawling when a new dog appears.

It’s her best friend whose head appears at the bottom of the knoll. A dog that’s equally agile and sweet natured and willing to play until his tongue hangs loose all the way to the ground. A high standard in the dog world.

She hides in the tall grasses and studies his every move. Closer, closer, jump! They both jump, front legs forward and embracing the other’s neck. Define happiness. Wait, don’t. Let it be. That’s exactly it.

It’s a trivial truth bite in the end… When you’re giving in to sunshine and sparkle, when you hop over inflated, bubbling creeks and greet birds swooping by, that’s when it catches up with you, that bite of truth: the plenty-ness we seek all our lives will never come from owning anything. It comes from being, from letting the sunshine reach all the way inside and from hanging all the dark thoughts into the light. It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? Breathe deeply. You have arrived at the start of a new day.

That is the feeling of plenty that awaits on the side of the trail every morning. That the dog jumps in the creek and then runs up the hill with all her might only helps with the fine touches.

She runs zigzags with her furry friend, and then they both dive at the bottom of a big sage brush. Tails showing briefly, rustling, more tails and noses sniffing. What are they after? That kind of strong intent no dog school could ever unhinge. I love that. They stop, only their noses pulverize dirt from some newly found tunnel.

A mouse makes its scared slow way from under the sage bush. Busted! Poppy throws a gaze his way, then she looks at me, then the ‘now what?’ becomes evident. Indeed, we have stumbled upon life buried in the world that complements our sunny one. We pull the dogs to the side, the mouse crawls away into another hole.

Today is the mouse, yesterday her uphill playing took us to a patch of newly blossomed shooting stars. I lingered more over the flowers than I do over the mouse, which is where our interests part ways. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

 

Mouse gone, friend gone home too, we follow the trail towards ours. Above us, the resident hawk flies above a magpie. There’s air tumbles, black and white feathers swooping under the wide-winged brown hunter, then above, stumbling in a desperate attempt to escape. The high-speed pursuit is enveloped in sunshine so bright it hurts my eyes. I’ll never know who prevailed. So it is. There’s as much mystery to life as there is clarity.

The grass in our yard is the tallest on the block. ‘Can we have it like that, please?’… Sasha pleads, my heart does too; tall grass is charming and soothing and beautiful to walk on. Alas, city rules oblige. Tony gets the push mower going. Green blades falling, green smells infuse the air.

‘Mom, should I leave the dandelion patch standing? They are so pretty…’ Yes please, thanks for asking. Half of the yard will be, for now, bumblebee and butterfly playground. I can hear the sun laughing.

Sasha and I read outside in the front yard. ‘On the shores of Silver Lake’. He picks a few dandelions while I read out loud. ‘I’ll make you another bouquet, Mom…’ Spring and love are synonyms. The pup lies near, her fur hot and soft and her eyes imbued with laziness.

There’s magic in it all. It comes from being. From choosing not to rush anything, even if it’s just for a few moments.

Later, I tend to Tony’s blisters. Life bites indeed. Learning continues.

Happy Earth Day Beyond Earth Day

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on Monday April 25, 2017. 

There is an interesting realization that sneaks up on you once you spend enough time in nature to be humbled by it: that you know squat about it, other than the very basics, if that, unless you dedicate time to learn about it. It is mind-boggling to think that for the most part, our awareness of the living world is minimal. That hinders much of our chance to succeed at saving ourselves.

Children have the right idea when they start out as wee curiosity-fueled machines. Nothing is yucky in their path, nothing too disgusting to look at, smell or touch. The world is an endless array of networks to learn about, to wonder at and to return to every day.

Nothing is ugly or boring. Rain or shine, hot or cold, children want to be out and exploring. As they grow up, we qualify the living world around them using words and concepts meant to provide safe boundaries which often end up becoming the reason children’s curiosity subsides. They learn to disengage.

Moreover, that childhood nowadays comes with screens and alternative reality fast-paced games and movies that take the young minds even farther from the slow-paced real life is not helping much either.

The human brain is amazing in how it can absorb and use information, in how it can solve problems and find solutions. And puzzlingly so, it is also, especially in our young ones, easily addicted to things and activities that create pleasure loops to get lost in, all supplied by an array of marketing ploys that are, as per their intended design, overwhelming.

Such activities, toys and gadgets, provide the kind of stimulation nature cannot provide. Not because it lacks anything, but because the nature’s rhythms are not meant to create addiction of any kind, but to soothe, heal, and allow for space to find ourselves and the inside voice that suits us best. That voice is, for lack of better way to explain it, in tune with the living world around.

That kind of meaningful, life-enriching and enabling duet, is more visible in some fellow humans than others. Come Earth Day, we are invited to remember the things that matter. No economic growth plan matters much if a community is under the threat of natural disasters, often induced by improperly and abusively conducted human activities. It could be clear cutting, mining, building of dams, you name it. Not just in BC and Canada but throughout the world.

Nature’s little note, never illegible I dare add, reads the same every time: work in congruency with nature’s way, never against it. Make operations sustainable and respectful of the living world, and things can work just fine. The one caveat: there would be lower profits perhaps, though bringing ethics into it can make it fair for everyone. The reward, though, would be longer term projects and much healthier outcomes environmentally and human health-wise; common sense replacing greed and the utter conviction that nature is ours to grab from, dominate and squeeze dry.

Awareness of the earthly gifts in all of us, from the very young to the very old, can make Earth Day a culmination of sorts rather than the isolated day when we celebrate our planet. An hour of turning off the lights is a good thing, but better yet if we do it daily. Just imagine having an hour a day, at least, when you spend time with your loved ones, or rest, walk and listen to the sounds of the world around you, anything that can be done with lights off and without any devices close at hand.

The earthly gifts are many and varied, but the basic ones are the same everywhere: water, air, and food. Imagine the kind of awareness that can be created if we had days dedicated to learning about hunger and thirst for example. By experiencing them, no less. Imagine a day when we would have a limited supply of food available, or clean water.

Imagine having the kind of overwhelming marketing campaigns that promote the selling of goods, and then more goods and gadgets, promoting awareness instead, based on what we need to know of the living world, people included.

Imagine being made aware (and becoming more appreciative of your own blessings and abilities to help) of issues that can be alleviated or even mildly improved, by knowing more about: lack of food or proper food, lack of clean water (more than 80 Indigenous communities in Canada are under boiled water advisory and many other communities are plagued by industrial pollution of their drinking water), lack of proper legislation that would see natural habitats protected and thus helping restore any environmental imbalances that ultimately come to affect our lives.

Imagine a day when those in a position of power, whether in manufacturing or marketing, would come together to realize that there is already enough stuff to go around and would press for developing aggressive alternative strategies to address the surplus through reusing, repurposing and overall reducing consumption. Delivery from slavery on both sides of the spectrum you could say…

On Earth Day and beyond, remembering that we have become so used to having convenient rather than respectful to nature, is worth yet another reminder. We have become used to resealable, non-recyclable bags for everything we consume, from produce and fruit to snacks and wipes; we have become accustomed to simply grabbing our cold drinks in single-use plastic cups covered with the plastic lid (number 6, non-recyclable in most recycling facilities), with a straw planted in it, no less, and we choose to not spend too much thought on why Canadians now produce approximately 10 billion tonnes of garbage yearly (9.6 billion tonnes in 2012) while the world’s oceans receive a staggering 8 billion tonnes of plastic from all of us earthlings.

During a recent talk at TRU on the topic of the health of our oceans, Fabien Cousteau shared one of his favourite quotes by Richard Louv. ‘We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot love what we do not see. Or hear. Or sense.’

Hence the need to return to the simple things: exploring nature alongside our children. Playing in the muck, sitting in the shade of old-growth trees and listening to birds, wading in streams, and growing some of the food we put on the table. Discovering more so we can live with less. Knowing. So we can love and protect.

Happy Earth Day beyond Earth Day!

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