When I was in college, a friend often wore Birkenstocks, the backless shoes that are the tree-hugging cousin of the flip-flop. The shoes reminded me of crunchy granola and the Hare Krishna food they used to give away on campus at the University of Florida. This was back in the nineties before Nordstrom carried the comfort shoe in an array of pastels. I was poor in college, so a splurge for me was a 2 a.m. run to the border for a nacho bell-grande. In hindsight, I should have opted for the free food passed out by the bald people wearing white sheets and dancing with tambourines. It was probably healthier. But I was afraid if I ate the Hare Krishna food I would end up in a hallucinogenic state and disavow my beachy flip-flops for its chunkier cousin.
And, let’s face it, I could barely afford a taco trip to the drive-thru. I certainly couldn’t afford pricey tree-hugging flip-flops, no matter how trendy they were destined to become.
Earth Day is April 22, and for whatever reason when I think of Earth Day I think of Birkenstocks. I never considered myself an environmentalist back then. It just seemed like too much work to take labels off cans, rinse them, and discard them into a separate trash container. I liked to think I was doing my part by reusing the same plastic cup at nickel beer night.
As the years passed, I developed an affinity for nature. Not just the spectacular grandeur of mountains or tropical beauty of beaches, but also the tiny buds that unfold into fragrant beauty, the cool feel of rich soil between my fingers, and the bees, butterflies, and birds that dance in communion with the wind.
Mostly, I love being outside. Working in the yard is one of the few places where I feel completely at peace. There, I have no sense of time, no need for email, no concern about social media, no worries about the future, and no misconceptions about who I am. It’s a holy place for me as I recognize the wonderment of God that reaches down into the unseen earth as roots and up to the sky with an umbrella of branches. The lessons I learn about life from nature are as uncomplicated as they are profound.
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being” (Job 12:7-10, NRSV).
Every one of them teachers, from the birds in the air to the flip-flop wearers of the world. Every one of them is a creation of God.
This year’s Earth Day theme is Environmental and Climate Literacy. I don’t really know what that means, and it sounds kind of boring in my ‘card-carrying member of the National-Parks-Service opinion.’ (Okay, I threw the card away because I hate paper! But they did send me one for my donation along with a pine-colored fleece throw. So, I feel somewhat like an authority on this matter.)
Anyway, I don’t need to understand the theme. At the end of the day, it seems as insignificant as your flip-flop preference. All that changes with times, trends, and the progression of our opinions. To me, honoring nature is every day, ever-evolving, much like that girl I was in college. The one who eventually walked away from the environmentalist stereotypes toward the God who created it all, loves all, and is in all.
Now that’s something to celebrate whether it’s with tambourines or tacos.
How do you honor Earth Day? Would you rather be in Nordstrom or in nature? Since I am adaptable, I am happy to do both!
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