Judy Fitzgerald: Childhood experiences instill love of nature - The Buffalo News

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Judy Fitzgerald: Childhood experiences instill love of nature

When I was a kid, most of my life was spent outside. I didn’t feel free until I took in that early morning air and the spaciousness around me. The sounds seemed soft, muffled, except for an occasional rooster crowing or a distant barn door slamming open, announcing the start of another day.

I came alive. I had the good fortune to spend my childhood on a farm in Illinois that had been in the family for four generations. Even on Saturday mornings, I would get up before anyone else, dress quietly and sneak out the door to my real home.

Of course, my collie dog would be there and off we would go to a favorite spot and plan an adventure. Usually the adventure didn’t amount to much more than walking around surveying my kingdom, imagining all kinds of scenarios until I saw someone stirring in the kitchen. To this day, I still feel that little burst of freedom when I step out for the first time.

Summer was the best. As soon as I finished my menial tasks, I was liberated to the pursuits of my imagination.

Many of them never panned out; in fact, I think the planning was the fun. It might have been building a tree house in the one tree good for such a pursuit. The problem was the tree was far from the house and I spent more time getting my supplies to the tree than I did in it.

Some afternoons, I would lie in the shade of a tree near the house and watch the leaves in the breeze and the clouds rolling by in the sky and wonder what it was all about.

As I grew older, my life became more complex and busy and I yearned to explore new vistas. I longed to see the mountains and the oceans, which I did eventually, and that felt like home too. I learned to camp and ski and other outdoor adventures, and as I explored more of the world, the constant was my feeling of being at home outside, no matter where. It has been my constant in a confusing world.

Eventually, I read “The Sacred Universe” by Thomas Berry. This made so much sense to me. He speaks of the Earth as a Living Being: “We come into being in and through the Earth.”

So now when I am feeling my connection with the earth and all living beings, I am even more in awe of my home. That instinctive connection with the earth is not just with an inert planet, but a living breathing being.

Life is what we share. Frequently I ponder what that means and I conclude that we cannot realize what we are doing. In our pursuit of energy through the use of fossil fuels, our use of dangerous chemicals and poisons, our abundance of waste and our general disregard for the Earth, we are destroying what we love.

We are all connected – we are all ONE. But I wonder if it has sunk in. Climate change is moving us all toward ecological disaster faster than was originally anticipated and yet, our economy is what dominates the news media.

Denial will not stop it; the only thing that will help is believing that we, every living being, really are ONE and decide to start acting to save what we can while we still can.

I still love to get up early and sneak outside and feel alive. I guess I treasure it now more than ever, knowing it won’t always be this way, not unless we wake up and start taking care of all of us.

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