At first it broke my heart.
I was peering into my suburban backyard at our Tupelo tree, which had lost all its leaves for the winter, and noticed a cardinal’s nest, now vacant, with a large piece of plastic coming out the side of it. Under the cover of leaves, I hadn’t noticed the plastic. But, with leaves gone and wind blowing, the empty nest revealed the trash that the cardinals had made use of in their nest. What have we done to this beautiful creation of life, this interconnected web of which we are merely one part? What right do we have to put things so out of balance?
I recently read a beautiful reflection by Christina Leaño of the Ignatian Solidarity Network in which she reminds us, “You’re on holy ground. Act like it.” Have we embraced this mindset in all that we do? When we look around, do we recognize everything as holy? Sacred? Do you live your life in a way that demonstrates you care for the whole web of life?
This Earth Day, let’s recommit ourselves to being living witnesses to the sacredness around us and our moral responsibility to act in ways that honor that sacredness. We have urgent problems in the Chesapeake, but we know how to solve these problems and we are making headway. For example, according to the Chesapeake Bay Commission, between 2014-2020, states reported a total of 5,525 acres of tree plantings on developed lands, far surpassing the 2,400-acre goal (though states are unable to account for lost trees so we keep planting because it’s better to be safe than sorry). Many of you planted those trees, so you are part of that solution. We create new problems, yes, but we have the ability to solve problems, too. We study the Chesapeake and we learn how to reduce pollutants, how to increase tree canopy, how to remove invasive species, how to grow more oysters and release them into the Bay. We are human and we make grave mistakes, but that means we also have the capacity to learn, to change, to love.
Reflecting back to the plastic in the nest, as time went on, I found a silver lining -- despite our human failings, Creation forgives, adapts, and finds new ways. The Earth continues to be sacred and beautiful, regardless of negative impacts from human hands. The cardinal had a busy nest last year, beautifully hidden in the Tupelo’s canopy. While the plastic showed an ecosystem harmed, I believe the rest of the natives species and food sources in my chemical-free yard made amends. This Earth Day, let us remember we’re on holy ground. Let’s act like it and inspire others to do the same.
Happy Earth Month to ALL!
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