Love Earth Now
Have I mentioned how much I despise gift cards? The mere sight of the rack full of them at the grocery store sends me into such a rage that I have to plan my route through the store to avoid them. All the resources that go into making that plastic card wasted after a single swipe—if it ever gets swiped at all—infuriates me as much as the effing phone book.
According to GiftRocket.com, NINE FREAKING TONS of plastic go into making the 1.6 billion gift cards we give (throw) away every bleeping year. More than 30 thousand tons of CO2 added to our atmosphere a year, just so we can say, “hey, I wanted to make sure you spend my hard-earned money at BigCorp, instead of investing your local community.”
I do get the appeal. Cold, hard cash has somehow become tacky, much like the ugly Christmas sweater. And gift cards are just so easy to pick up. I trip over (or steer myself away from) more gift card racks than ATMs on any given day. I swear I saw one in my sock drawer the other day. Or maybe I’ve been hitting the egg nog a little too hard.
Beyond convenience, they also convey a subtle “I-get-you” message. By giving you this card I recognize that you’re a Ross-Starbucks-Sephora-Target-Victoria’s Secret kind of person.
Sure, in the ancient days of my youth, such sentiments were inscribed in a relic called a greeting card. Hallmark sentiments cost a few bucks nowadays; but gift card itself is “freeeeee,” which is as outrageous a notion as “free” shipping. There’s nothing flipping free, from Earth’s perspective, about container ships, airplanes and delivery trucks moving our cheap, Asian-made goods around the world. But I digress. My favorite hobby.
All of which means I never buy gift cards. Except, of course, when I do. I picked one up today, along with a truckload of self-loathing, because it’s what the foster child we “adopted” for Christmas wants. She asked for a few practical things, which I also bought, and suggested several varieties of gift cards. I planned to give her cash in lieu of any gift card, until I found myself tossing that Wild Wings card into my cart. She’s 17, collecting things for her about-to-begin life as an independent adult, and the Mom part of me wants to ensure that she spends at least some money on FUN.
And also because I have all the discipline of Homer Simpson around jelly donuts.
If only I’d heard of GiftRocket before I tossed that piece of plastic environmental desecration into my cart. A GiftRocket is a digital egift card, available for any business in the US—including local businesses (be still my heart). GiftRocket givers can suggest a business (thus satisfying the “I see you” appeal), which recipients can choose to honor or select another option. All my groans of “ugh-more-technology-to-learn” aside, I like it.
What I like even more is walking down to my favorite local restaurant, buying a (compostable) paper gift certificate. Which is what I’ll do for the gift exchange next week. And maybe I’ll enjoy a cold glass of something while I’m there, to celebrate my eco-saintliness. Chat with the owners, who have seen our kids grow from tots to teens, about all the family news. Now that’s something that neither the etailers nor the mall retailers can offer.
Sitting in my office with lovely old Atlas Cedar standing in steadfast loyalty outside my window, my heart is full of gratitude. For the friends with whom I shared an exquisite meal on Thanksgiving. For the great bird and all the plants that gave of themselves to create our feast. For the farmers who tended their flocks and crops. For the truck drivers, the grocers and every hand that touched our blessed meal along its way to us. For the microbes that turned the soil, the bees that pollinated, the rain that fell and all the forces and gifts of Nature that made our meal—and every meal—possible.
Today, I’m grateful to be rant-free, thanks to my new diet. Start a diet on Thanksgiving? Yep, I’ve given up Twitter, Vice News and even NPR Morning Edition. Feels as freeing as losing ten or twenty pounds. At least, that’s what I can recall of such a long-ago experience.
Makes me wonder why I ever torture myself. Is poking myself in the eye with a sharp needle all that much fun? Or am I just an eco-masochist? Rhetorical question.
It’s Sunday evening, and I know what Monday morning brings. Back in the car, taking kids to school, running errands . . . and tuning back into the world. I’m a news junkie from way back, and I know I’ll turn on Morning Edition as soon as I hit the driver’s seat. My endeavors to quit the news last about as long as my attempts to quit coffee. Sure, it feels good and all, but where’s the insanity in that?
So I’ll sit here in my news-free office with my pal Atlas for a little while longer. . . for at least as long as this glass of Chardonnay lasts.
Serenely going about my cooking business last night when husband piped up to alert me about the latest Trump-fueled travesty. “Get this, they plan to lift the ban on importing elephant ‘trophies,’ ” he said. I confess that I prayed for a good solid minute that elephants in Africa had joined a bowling league. Not even in my most desperate embrace of denial could I convince myself it was true.
“Trophy hunters will be able to bring in elephant ears, tails. . . ” Fingers plugging my ears, I flung myself out of the kitchen door, wailing, before I could hear any more. Sobbing, I flung myself to the ground and pounded earth.
ELEPHANTS! FFS. Our intelligent, compassionate Earthkindreds who live in close-knit communities and mourn their dead. Already hunted to near-extinction, this kind of hunting for the trophy tempts me sorely to fling open the liquor cabinet. Surely this grief will be the one that does me in.
Spying the shovel I’d abandoned in a failed planting effort, I grab it and start stabbing the ground. This bare patch of earth is hard as a rock, and I have many plants I want to put in before The Rain (oh, please, oh, please) comes back. Use this rage to turn the whole dam thing over. May SOME good come of it.
Not that I’m against hunting. Growing up in the Midwest, I’ve known and admired many an honorable hunter. Culling deer and other animals whose natural predators we’ve eliminated seems a compassionate choice. So many will die of starvation otherwise. Summoning the will and the skill to take down the animal to feed one’s family is something I respect.
But trophy hunting a species into extinction is no effing honor in my book. It’s as heinous as . . .well, I’m not going to go there because I’m already so mad I fear for my personal safety. Suffice to say that killing any creature to brag about its slaughter rips the lid I’d tightly sealed on my vat of eco-horror. Why, oh, why cannot we agree to share this beautiful planet?
Shoveling like the mad woman that I surely am burnt up the heat of my rage. I started thinking about the posts I’d seen of groups working to save the elephants. “Entrust and thank” those who do the work that I cannot.Tossed the shovel and went inside to sit down at this laptop. Found the Elephant Project, a nonprofit with a unique program funding elephant sanctuaries and conservation programs. I dab dewy tears of hope, as I fill out the form to make an online contribution. It’s not the kind of “contribution” I’d really like to be making right now, but it’s the only legal one that comes to mind.
Bless the beasts and the children.
And all who work to give them a voice.
We have president-elect who thinks climate change is a non-existent hoax?
A ardent climate-change skeptic to oversee the EPA transition?
I can’t even.
I now have a burning desire to go out and turn that overloaded, stinking compost bin. More than willing to sacrifice more fingernails.
And I’m betting that recent cursing record will not stand.
I spy a pantry moth staring at me from the ceiling of the cereal cabinet, and I erupt. “This can’t be happening! I did EVERYTHING! By the book!” I pound the counter until I catch the worried look on my husband’s face.
I lost four (or maybe ten) days last week, after my daughter insisted that something be done about the pantry moth invasion that I’d been ignoring. I rolled up my sleeves and emptied every cabinet containing food (or signs of moth activity). I tossed all the infested foodstuffs, marching them all the way out to the outdoor bin, far from the house—fiercely resisting the urge to compost any of it. All questionable foods went into the freezer for at least the recommended three days (most are still there). I scrubbed every nook and cranny (with earth-friendly cleaners!). I removed every shelf and washed all six sides, then stacked them neatly in the clean room for the duration of the blitz. I even ferreted out that single, infested pistachio nut which had fallen into the drawer stuffed full of bags.
I put moth traps into the empty cabinets and in a defensive line surrounding the few remaining jars and cans sitting in the clean room. I waited a couple of days, checking the traps every few hours. I sprayed moth-repelling essential oils like some haunted house fog machine. After three days without a single moth sighting, I re-inspected the foodstuffs before putting them back into the cabinets.
How can there be a pantry moth anywhere in this kitchen???
There’s a message here for me, and I am determined to get it so this nightmare can end. I consider all possibilities, no notion too crazy to entertain (as usual).
This bug is mocking me and my beliefs that we can peaceably co-exist. Nature is ‘kill-or-be-killed,’ and I need to stop romanticizing it.
Or maybe bug is here to teach me about resilience, finding ways to survive when the environment changes. Pay attention and learn to adapt to eco-upheavals.
Or maybe it’s just a moth, and I’m reading waaaay too much into this.
I never can chicken plucking tell.
I cut the crusts from my daughter’s sandwich, basking in the glow of attentive motherhood, as well as the the self-righteous satisfaction of being a composter. The nutrition in the crusts of this organic, 100% whole-grain bread baked by artisans paid a living wage, shall not be wasted. These crusts will feed the critters in my compost bin who shall convert it into nutrition for my kitchen garden which, in turn, shall become organic vegetable nutrition for my children—if I could ever get them to eat any.
But then I remember that the compost bin is so full that I can barely turn it. My most recent effort resulted in several broken fingernails and a cursing streak of which I am not proud. I can’t empty it yet because that disgusting (oops, I mean, glorious) smelly glop in there isn’t yet done ‘cooking.’ I can’t add the crusts to that big bag of “ready-to-compost!” scraps that I so helpfully left by the compost bin last week either. The neighborhood foragers ripped into it last night, spreading food scraps across the lawn, like so much frat party puke that I’m sure the neighbors wonder (again) just what the hell goes on over here.
I’d love to toss the bread crusts out the kitchen door as a treat for the birds except this agreeable activity, so much a part of my fondest childhood memories, has been deemed yet another eco-travesty. Birds should be dining on nuts and seeds, full of protein, not dry bread that can swell up inside the avian gut, sometimes killing them. And a bloated, dead bird on my drought-tolerant, organically-nutrified yard would totally kill my self-righteous glow.
I don’t want to eat the crusts because I don’t need the carbs, and I would rather wear a scarlet P (for polluter) than send precious nutrition off to a landfill where they will not compost in anyone’s lifetime. Leaving them out on the counter until I figure something out will only spark another lecture from my daughter about the TOTAL DISGUST of leaving moldy food out in the family kitchen.
I stomp outside, grab my shovel and I dig a hole in the yard deep enough to bury a body and throw in the bleeping crusts. If the birds dig ’em up out of this pit, well, then it’s on them. I replace the soil while whispering apologies to any earthworms who might have been harmed in this exercise. I brush the dirt from my hands, wave to the agape dog walkers across the street, and then I go to my yoga class.
I see it splayed out there on the sidewalk like the entrails of the critter the cat has brought home for adoration. The new phone book is here. Countless beloved trees killed to make this piece of crap that I do not want and will not use, laid out here like it’s some kind of prize. Great choice, humanity: chew up the lungs of this planet so that we can keep making these dinosaurs that are out of date by the time they are printed. Hasn’t anybody heard of the Internet?
I creep up on it like the cat approaching its prey. When it fails to move, I pounce, giving it a resounding kick. Emboldened by its passivity, I stomp on it, then drop to my knees to pummel it, screaming “fuck the phone book!”
Sometimes I forget that I live in a world where everything stupid that anyone does ends up in a viral video.
But I feel a lot better.
Turns out that fucking phone book is good for something after all.
A good friend told me that not everyone loses sleep over separating plastic bags fore recycling or anguishes over which cobwebs to remove. “That’s nothing,” I said, ” what about the kombucha anxiety, the ongoing compost ordeal or the letter to the ants . . . ” Shaking her head, my dear friend says, “Nope, I don’t even know what you’re talking about. Maybe you could write it down, you know, blog about all that.”
So that’s how this all got started. This is my log of the self-inflicted torture I endure on a daily basis as I stumble along the fine line between Earth-loving intentions and eco-madness. A lifelong Earth-lover, despairing the dire prognoses for our home planet, I drive myself to the verge of insanity on a daily basis, desperate to believe that there’s anything I can do that will make a real difference. I end up over analyzing every act of daily living, from washing vegetables to dealing with an ant invasion, exhausting myself in the process. I admit, on some days, I just wanna drive my car three blocks to the drive-through window for a fast food fix and toss the bag out the window, not a care in the world.
Then an image of my future grandchildren romping and thriving on a beautiful, healthy planet comes into mind, and I find myself back on the kitchen floor sorting out #2 plastic bags from the #4s.
Sometimes, rarely, magically, an epiphany dawns and I can tie up some wrenching concern in a pretty bow and send out out for publication (like this one here; click to read, then see page 9).
But that’s not what’s in this blog. If you’re looking for quick and tidy steps to a more Earth-friendly lifestyle, I urge you to look elsewhere.
If you’re looking for a companion walking that fine line between caring and crazy, then please read on. Feel free to share any comments or stories of your own brushes with eco-madness. Perhaps if we can grasp hands through the pages of the Internet, we just might keep each other on this side of crazy.
Cheryl Leutjen’s deep love of Earth, as well as her hope for a bright future for her children, fuel her passion for responding to the challenges of our time with heart, hope, humor, and spiritual practice. Cheryl writes to share her experiences about on the razor’s edge between Earth-mindfulness and eco-madness, not because she’s got it all figured out, but in solidarity with anyone else who’s fumbling along the path of more conscientious living.
She draws from her experience as a geologist, attorney, small business owner, spiritual practitioner, over-analyzing-everything Gemini, Midwestern childhood, Los Angeles transplant, wife and mother to claw her way out of the abyss of eco-despair. She seeks solace from the sages in Nature who reveal the wisdom she needs to navigate a more Earth-loving path.
Cheryl credits the Modern Day Priestess training with Reverend Kate Rodger, steeping in ancient wisdom ways for practical use in the modern world, for inspiring the spiritual growth that that now guide her Love Earth work.
She resides in Los Angeles, where she takes copious yoga classes, digs up the yard and throws a lot of darts as therapy. She facilitates the Natural Muse meetup for Earth-loving writers, and co-facilitates “EarthKind,” a spiritual practice group for manifesting a more sustainable human presence. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Northeast Trees nonprofit organization.
She lives with her husband (aka her Sanity Supervisor), two children, her muse Atlas Cedar, and two cats who care not one whit about any of her credentials.
We came here to play, full out, with everything on the line.