21 Apr

Unearth Day: Digging in the Dirt

“The case for ‘Unearth Day'” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (April 21, 2010).

This week, as folks around the globe celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, I propose that we establish an offshoot movement to be known as “Unearth Day.”

Earth Day, which is Thursday, gives voice to the planet. It’s a call to both protect and preserve it, challenging us to come to an understanding of how the Earth and the people who live off of it can coexist to the mutual benefit of both – a noble and important mission indeed, and one that is often necessarily political in its focus.

As Earth Day’s counterpart, Unearth Day could complement the 40-year-old grassroots environmental movement by literally getting children into the grass and the roots. This movement has been growing for a while now; getting kids back to nature is now a trendy theme being tackled by publishers, environmental nonprofits, and soapbox do-gooders. Let me join them on the soapbox, but suggest a much more practical and down-to-earth approach.

Let the children unearth the earth! While there are many things to protect our children from these days, I suggest that dirt is not one of them.

My six brothers and I grew up in the dirt – whether our mother liked it or not. Be it digging for dinosaur bones like budding paleontologists, ceremonially burying a departed bird or squirrel found nearby, or attempting to tunnel our way to China, we ensured that our yard featured an ever-expanding series of ditches. The back yard inflicted its share of sprained ankles as a result, but nothing more insidious than that.

Often, our yard showed more brown than it did green, as mud-sliding in April showers and an assortment of sports throughout the summer beat the grass into submission.

The earth didn’t seem to mind, though I have a feeling today’s “Purell parents” would.

Dare to overturn a rock and uncover a gathering of creepy crawlies? “Don’t touch that!” Out comes the hand-sanitizer.

Dare to run and slide in the muddy grass? “Get in here!” Out come the bleach and laundry detergent.

Dare to step off the sidewalk and into the treacherous unknown once called the ground? “Get over here. That’s not our property. And look at your new shoes!”

Dare to bring a coffee can filled with newly captured bugs into the home? “Aaaaaa!” Might as well dial 911.

To combat this attitude, drastic measures are needed. I suggest that Unearth Day be launched in full force immediately. A cute little earthworm could serve as the new holiday’s spokes-critter. Give him a Cockney accent: ” ‘Ello, kiddies. I’m here to tell you about dirt. I play in it all day. I eat the stuff, too. Why not give it a go?”

Yes, let’s give it a go! Changing hearts and minds, one Purell parent at a time, let’s remember what lies beneath our sidewalks and driveways. Venture off the concrete and into the uncharted territory of the dirt.

You might just be surprised what you unearth.

04 Apr

Easter morn

Looking out the kitchen window on Easter morning, I discover four cardinals perched in the branches of the ornamental dogwood tree.

Though spring has arrived, the tree still holds onto its winter dress – woody branches and nothing more. Its buds, leaves and blooms have not yet begun to take form.

The four birds dance from branch to branch in the barren tree. Their bright red feathers bring the tree to life, providing a glimpse of the blooms soon to come.

The cardinals dance on the wood, as if painting the tree red.

Then, as quickly as they appeared, together they take flight and ascend skyward.

Blood on the cross begets the resurrection.

02 Apr

The litterer

My daughter is a litterer.

Coming home from work at night, or taking out the trash, or while picking up fallen branches in the yard, every so often I’ll discover a piece of bright construction paper perched in a bush or laying on the lawn. I smile each time I see one, for I know I’ve just stumbled upon a message meant for heaven.

Each paper, you see, is a card meant for her Pops or for Jesus. Strategically placed on the front stoop or somewhere on the lawn, waiting to be whisked away by the wind, their intended destination is heaven.

Each card captures the mind of a young child not wrestling with death, but joyfully and innocently reaching beyond it. Rainbows, sunsets, oceans, and trees – they adorn each card in colorful crayon.

I spy one of these heavenly messages tucked under an azalea bush one evening. It is folded in half and taped at the sides as if to create a pouch. I prop the card open and peer inside, only to find a single yellow crayon.

Are there no crayons in heaven, I smiled and wondered. Perhaps the crayon was simply so she could once again color together with her Pops – she coloring away on paper while he brightens the sun above.

With yellow crayon in hand, I look back at the card and read her message:


I smile and shed a joyful tear, for her grasp of heaven triumphs mourning. Hope, like life itself, springs eternal.