Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My Journey to Becoming a Green Girl

It started when I was small and my mother had a garden. In the 70's people gardened because it was cheaper than buying food at a store. She made our clothes and was incredibly creative about cheap fun on our shoestring budget. I loved our garden, eating peas and beans straight off the plant, the special green smell of tomato leaves, the miracle of a tiny seed becoming a 5 foot tall stalk of green. I also liked the independence of living off the grid--when Mom made my clothes, she could make doll clothes to match my outfits. Nobody shopping at Pranges or J.C. Penney's could buy what she made us. I could pick the colors, patterns, and styles, limited only by the Butterwick patterns that she could improvise upon. By the age of 6 I totally understood that the best things were homemade, homegrown, tailored to fit like a glove and NOT from a chain store. I admit, I regressed a bit in high school and college, but I have returned to this way of thinking.

My appreciation of clean air has a more obvious link: I have asthma. In the 70's air quality near Milwaukee, Wisconsin wasn't healthy. The warnings meant I had to play indoors. A polluted sky meant a hard time breathing for me as a kid. I'm a fresh air junkie since 1974.

My love of nature's majesty started young, too. We moved every 4 years and I got to see a lot of the U.S.A. by the time I was 12. Particularly amazing to me were the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Rocky Mountains, and Lake Michigan. Vast wide open spaces with no people, buildings, cars or roads called to me. I loved the isolation of nature, the silence and the peace. As I grew older, I sought out places with lots of trees and fewer people--I biked quiet country roads, floated on still lakes, sat in the shade and observed the industry of bee hives. I wanted to see more of the planet's beauty--so I traveled and saw the Sahara, the Alps, two oceans and Giant's Causeway. It bugged me to see garbage marring these landscapes, it felt so disrespectful, like vandalism. Like a typical Type-A control freak, I started picking up after people and putting things right--starting in my back yard and then down the street, across the road, and I'm still at it today.

Water has a very calming effect on my soul. I even took a job in college because the view from my post behind the bar overlooked the Wolf River flowing past. On the worst day, the sight and sound of water soothes me. Like most folks, I prefer clean water to dirty, and since everything flows into the waterways, I try to limit my impact.

I've always been a little, er, political and rebellious. (To those of you who know me personally, shut up.) When I see our planet damaged by other people's thoughtless and selfish behavior, it gets my dander up. I despise the trivial and vapid--so I don't get why people know more about TV celebrities than they do about the plants and insects living in their own back yards. It's easy to hurt what you don't understand--so a person will spray Raid all over a few bugs, not understanding how their behavior impacts a whole population of bugs--and other species of plants and insects and even animals. The same person will thoughtfully send a check to Oprah's latest cause. Why? Because they know about it. I think the secret of saving the planet is exposure--education and explanation. When people know better, they'll act better. I can't complain about how people act if I don't teach them how to behave. If I want a Greener World, it's up to me to color it, through my attitude, my actions and my influence. And now the stakes are higher, I have kids affected by pollution and wasteful behavior, so for their sake I need continue my history of tree hugging with more vehemence and vigor.

Happy Earth Day, all! Enjoy your day--whether it involves planting a tree, picking up litter or buying organic. Stop by Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet to register for my first Great Blogland Give-Away!


  1. I grew up in Minnesota and went to school in Nebraska. We have family in Wisconsin, and Iowa and Minnesota. I miss that part of the world! All those wonderful wide open spaces. Solitude in nature. Enjoy.

  2. I tell my kids about the bad old days of the 70's when people just routinely through garbage out their car windows as they drove. Seriously, McDonalds bags full of trash just thrown out. They cannot believe it (thank goodness).

  3. This is so great. Happy Earth Day to you too!

    My grandmother sewed some of my clothes growing up, which I loved. I also learned about gardening from my grandparents, who were largely self sufficient where food was concerned. The gardening, I've continued. The sewing, not so much.

  4. Oh Green Girl, are we two peas in a pod today or what? I gotta say, I think I'm in love with you...in a completely non sexual way of course :-)....just that I think we would be great friends if we lived near each other. When you write I feel such complete understanding.

    "The same person will thoughtfully send a check to Oprah's latest cause." I said "yes, exactly" when I read this. You put into words my frustration with those that don't see how every action relates and effects something else - People who get stuck on in a small field of view and don't see the whole interconnected picture.

  5. Great big happy Earth Day, shouting over that backyard fence, neighbor.

  6. Oh, dear, you must have hated my post today! I'm sorry, I just cannot give up my can of Raid.

  7. happy earth day to you as well!

  8. I liked the story of your childhood and your mom doing all that sewing. More like that, please!

    I think someday we will look back at this past 60 years and think, "sheesh", just like we look back on all the glamorous ladies of the 1950's who smoked when they were pregnant.


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