I am a day late, but I am back in a place that keeps its own time.
I am back in a place where the heat weighs like an anchor on life. Where the sun knows no phase of in-between; it either is or it isn’t, and when it is, risen, everything cowers at its feet.
I am back in a place where the temple tops gleam in the evening hours and the streets smell chokingly sweet of exhaust and tea. The generators chug through the night. The crows heckle from their perches all around. Maybe you know where I am.
I am back in a classroom ofÂ delightfully inquisitive students who want to understand the world. We talk about Earth Day. They know the name, but nothing of its origins. We discuss the day’s history, and I ask them to write something, anything, about the Earth we all love.
But teacher, one student says, the environment doesn’t weigh heavily on people’s minds, not yet, because they focus first on daily needs–food to eatÂ and schooling for their children.
And teacher, another hand raises, I don’t think my stories in print are the best means of conveying environmental messages to the masses–because most people cannot afford the price of a paper.
Poverty. It is a forefront concern, whenever people speak of environment. Our conversation evolves from there, and they begin to write short Earth Day tributes based on personal experience. Based on the knowledge in their heads and the feelings in their hearts.
It’s not good for people to toss dinner scraps into the back alley, one young woman shares her idea. The alley fills with garbage and rats. Nothing grows. This is a problem she knows first-hand.
Another student writes about a city that loses its beauty when the trees are chopped. Long ago, travelers flocked to this city, high and cool in the mountains where pine trees colored the landscape green. But the trees disappeared and with them, the landscape’s luster. All that remains is the deep red flesh of the Earth. Wounded and scarred.
The image reminds me of the park I see through my window, where the trees still stand but their branches are shorn in odd, asymmetrical configurations. Something simply looks wrong. The trees grow off-balance, ever since the storm.
They survived, they remain alive, though hobbled by the winds that battered their integrity–not unlike this place where I am.
And maybe not unlike Mother Earth herself.