Deeeeeep breath. Oh, that feels good. Lately, I remind myself to drink in that air, purer than it was a month ago, as deeply as I can, and thank God I can do so. It makes me heady, actually, the blessing of lungs that fill and swell my chest, fueling my cells. As we are forced into retreat by COVID-19 for fear of losing that life-giving ability, our fellow creatures and the planet itself are taking a restorative sigh of relief.
Ahhhh, they're gone…
The charming image of dolphins reclaiming the canals of Venice is fiction as it turns out. A shame, as I’d like to think fake news applies primarily to reports Trump deems uncomfortable. Disappointing as is the dolphin fable, I’ve seen videos of turkeys strutting Boston’s thoroughfares, a mountain lion leaping onto an urban wall, and wild boar snorting and scuffling along an Italian street. Our exploitation and disregard for Nature’s children, human and animal, is a deep sadness, and I hope this respite results in responses that give all species a chance.
Here in quarantine, my thoughts and moods circle, at times like the mythical Venetian dolphins, leaping with energy and hope, and at times like the haggard wraiths working COVID wards, swathed in masks, scrubs, and flimsy yellow gowns. It depends on the moment. I can be engrossed in a project, comfy and content, while Dave pours me a glass of wine and cooks up a tasty red sauce, or, usually at night, a tickle in my throat conjures the haunting specter of failing lungs and desperate prayers for a free ventilator.
On this Earth Day, snug at home, I know what’s critical for my survival. My loved ones and hugs, a treasure I’ve indulged in with abandon, never imagining they’d be forbidden, top the list. Daffodils, sunshine, magnolias, and birdsong have proved essentials in braving hug-deprivation and CNN reports. Given the leanings of the current administration and man’s enthusiasm for dominion, I’ve worried about my other priorities a lot longer: a thriving animal kingdom, clean air, clean water, and planetary systems and seasons operating as they should.
It’s hard to imagine that, in the midst of a respiratory crisis, an administration would whittle away at the Clean Air Act, even casting covetous eyes on the provisions of legislation guarding the nation’s waters, but, believe it. The same is true of the Environmental Protection Agency and Endangered Species Act, since 1970, the efforts of past administrations to keep Creation on track.
In 1989, TIME magazine diverged from human-centricity to designate our Endangered Earth, Planet Of The Year. In the lead article, writer Thomas A. Sanction asked, “What on Earth Are We Doing?” as page after page depicted floods in Bangladesh, slash burning along the Amazon, species extinction, and mountains of refuse. After all these intervening years of alerts, still we face those issues, along with COVID deaths, locust plagues, scorched koalas, hunger, and wildfires. Indeed, one must ask, what is our problem?
This week, Dave and I watched “One World, Together At Home,” a concert coordinated by Global Citizen and Lady Gaga to benefit the World Health Organization from which our president just withdrew funding. We were drawn by the lengthy, extraordinary list of participants: Paul McCartney, Keith Urban, Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Beyonce, Celine Dion, Andrea Boccelli, Stevie Wonder, Taylor Swift, Elton John, and the Rolling Stones among them. It filled my heart that they had chosen to support the WHO and give us their music, their best gift, to cheer us in isolation and applaud those on the front lines.
The program was a hug in itself, a message of unity, caring, and gratitude in our time of trouble. Throughout the show, I fought back tears at clips of medical personnel, first responders, sanitation workers, delivery drivers, and cashiers, some we’ve always admired, and some routinely overlooked, and all have dedicated themselves now to healing and helping.
Even in my sorrow and anxiety over this disease, I feel the Universe has taken extraordinary measures to give us a chance. Noting that prior warnings were inadequate, this push-back is impossible to ignore, and the answers are apparent in fresh air over Beijing, free movement of wildlife, and the surge of kindness, love, and appreciation among men. I pray we reflect, learn, hold onto the good, and take action.
Happy Earth Day.