Earth Day

The earth shook on Earth Day.

In the early moments of today, we experienced a strange sort of earthquake in Los Angeles (or so I am told). Its magnitude was relatively low, but the quake was short and strong. Our windows shook. We heard our dresser and the lamp that sits on top rattle. I had never felt an earthquake before, not really. I was raised in the Midwest, the land of tornadoes and blizzards, not known for its earthquakes.

There is, of course, an odd poetry embedded in earthquake happening in the first few minutes of Earth Day. There’s also nothing like an earthquake in the middle of a global pandemic to remind you that this life, this breath and the next one, this day are precious.

We have all seen the stories of how our air, our water, and our green spaces have become cleaner, more vibrant, and healthier. We have all seen the statistics of rapidly falling pollution levels, or the photos of Venice’s clear blue canals. Or we have heard more birds singing above us.

This does not justify the quarantine. Too many people have died, and too many people are living with immense fear, coping with incredible loss. Yet it is still happening… and it is one beautiful thing to hold onto – the glimmer of a promise of a cleaner, safer world to come.

The Zen poet and environmental activist, Gary Snyder writes one of my favorite poems, “For the Children,” which I return to today. It shows me of living contemplatively, by walking softly upon the earth.

For the Children” by Gary Snyder

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us,
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light.