The following is my most recent “Nature’s Ways” column for the Cape Codder and Register newspapers and since they don’t post it online I thought I’d post it here for Thanksgiving.
It’s easy to find things to be thankful for when out in nature. There’s all that air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and all those trees, flowers and grasses. There are beautiful birds making beautiful music, deer posing like svelte models in sunlit meadows, squirrels flicking fat furry tails and whales leaping out of the waves to name a few. There is the salt air upon our skin, the first summer rain, the quiet night filled with stars in the sky and bats over the pond and the silky sand squishing up between our toes. There is the silence of the first winter snow, the mystery of an autumn fog and the drama of a thunderstorm full of lightning shows as well as whimsical rainbows following summer afternoon sun showers. With all this beauty and bounty around us, how could we not be overflowing with gratitude?
And yet, sometimes we forget to show how grateful we are. We litter the landscape with trash, we clog the ocean with plastics and we poison the air, water and land with careless abandon. We forget to use what we are given so freely with reverence and respect and sometimes treat nature with disdain and disrespect instead. Most of us do not do this deliberately but more like absent minded and self-centered children that don’t mean to be wasteful and take advantage but who make a big mess anyway.
As Thanksgiving approaches in what seems to be an onslaught of holiday commercialism by businesses that would probably like to just eliminate a holiday without gifts altogether I have been reminded more than ever this year that the real joys in life are not in cardboard or plastic packages but in the connections we make and have made with ourselves, each other and with nature. We all know this, we all talk about it and yet the mall parking lots are always full and trucks full of garbage barrel down the highway each day. Something like only 10% of us actually recycle anything and if that’s true here on the Cape where so many seem to be environmentally aware then over the bridge must be even scarier….The majority of people use some sort of fertilizer, weed killer or pesticide at least now and then and most homes have bug killers, bleach and other toxic cleaners or pest eliminators in their closets or basements. We use strong laundry detergents and take clothes to the dry cleaners and according to recent articles we flush a lot of left over medicines down the toilet. And let’s not forget what all the cars and trucks do, not only with their emissions but with the effects of tires and oils on the roads that eventually wash into our waterways and ground water. There are all sorts of toxins in TVs, computers, cameras and cell phones, especially in their batteries and that doesn’t even begin to count the possible effects of radiation emanating from all these things, all the time, all around us even if we don’t own a single one of these items.
I know, it feels a bit overwhelming and discouraging but what if as we give thanks this year we also pledge to say thanks with an action or two. If you already do many things that help rather than hurt nature and the environment, perhaps volunteer in a capacity that will help teach others the advantages of living without toxins and poisons. Maybe as we give thanks for all that we have we could pledge to accept clothes that aren’t bright white, gardens that have a few weeds and food that is smaller and has a few spots.
It really doesn’t take much to make a difference. We can start small and it will still add up. Just as that famous journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so can being truly thankful begin with our small individual actions.
As our annual day of national ‘thanks giving’ approaches, wouldn’t it be great to make giving thanks a daily thing with our own conscious actions? Nature would be very grateful indeed. Happy Thanksgiving,