Earth Day News

Earth Day is forty today, and the news is full of tips on green living and environmental reporting. I had actually forgotten it was Earth Day–brain cancer treatment and
writing had my attention–until I glanced at the wireless monitor for
our solar power system. (I check the output every day to see how much
electricity we’re generating. It’s as absorbing as any television show
to this green gear-head.)


I looked right at the bottom line, lifetime production, and saw as of today, our rooftop power plant has generated over 10 megawatt-hours of clean electricity. And it was connected only a year ago! (Thanks to Tim Klco of Peak Solar for the installation, Xcel Energy for the rebate, and SunPower for the system.)

Ten megawatts, by the way, is almost a thirtieth of the output of the average-sized coal-fired power plant. Which means that 30 rooftop photovoltaic systems the size of ours could potentially put one coal-fired power plant out of business, removing tons of CO2 and other nasty emissions from the air, and tons of fly ash from the Earth. Sounds good to me. 

Since it’s Earth Day, I offer this short list of words to help cultivate terraphilia, our species’ inborn love of this planet and its web of lives, every day:

1. Honor: Take a moment to honor the place where you find yourself. Look around you and pay homage to the landscape and the lives you share it with. I salute the four directions every morning as part of my yoga practice, beginning with East, where the sun rises, then moving to South, where the light comes from, West, where the Sun sets, and North, where the cold comes from. As I say each direction to myself, I envision the landmark that stands for that direction, an actual piece of Earth nearby. Then I salute Mother Earth, Father Sky, and myself, at home where I am.

2. Respect: Get to know the other species with whom you share your everyday landscapes. (No, I don’t mean your spouse or your teenagers–they just seem like other species. Or your pets.) Stop to greet a plant, a bird, an insect, or another animal. Really look at that life, and think about it as a neighbor, someone you’d like to know. Watch that life from day to day, week to week, season to season. Learn its name, its habits and routines, how its life changes over time. Make notes, sketch it, take photos. Get to know the community of lives that weave around your own. (That’s two other species in the photo above: the pasque flower blooming in our front courtyard grassland, and the ant collecting nectar from the base of its petals.)

3. Share: Live as if you are part of a community. Make space for other species in your daily habits. Everything you don’t consume means more for some other life–more resources left as wildlife habitat, more clean water running in rivers and streams, more land undeveloped, more air unpolluted…. You get the idea. Better still, restore some wildlife habitat where you live: plant native wildflowers, grasses and shrubs in a corner of your yard and watch them grow a community of lives. Even a pot of natives on your balcony or patio will attract native bees and butterflies, and re-connect you to the rhythms of life.

4. Enjoy: Stop to smell the metaphorical roses and do whatever nurtures your sense of wonder. It only takes a moment to feed your soul: notice a sunrise or sunset, look overhead for the sparkle of stars in the night sky, listen to a snatch of birdsong, smell the fresh living earth after a rainstorm, or feel the warm sun on your skin. If you can’t remember how to enjoy nature and the flow of life, take a kid outside and roll in the grass, look for shapes in the clouds, listen for butterfly wings, and hunt for caterpillars among the wildflowers. It’ll come back to you.

I’ve got some personal good news too. Forgive me if I’m slow to get to that; weathering the ups and downs in this journey with brain cancer means taking it at my own pace. I’m a walker–steady, observing as I go–not a sprinter, racing out of the gate.

So, the news: Yesterday when we met with Richard’s oncologist, she reported that his blood platelet levels have rebounded to normal again, his lymphocytes are up too, and Tuesday’s brain MRI looks good. Dr. Klein showed us the images, including some scar tissue from his brain surgery and the radiation, and a few small areas the radiologist wants to watch. Other than those areas, she said, his brain looks normal, and she’s pretty pleased about that. As of yesterday, he’s started back on the chemotherapy regime that we hope will extend his life for a good long time.

It seems odd to be reporting on Earth Day about our relief that he’s back to taking poison, but there it is. Life’s an interesting journey, and it continues to ask us to stretch and grow, embracing what comes with open hearts, as best we can.

So on we walk. Thanks for your company and support!