A few years ago on Earth Day, my daughters and I did something we’ve never done before. We laid face-down on the beach in Laguna, arms outstretched, along with about 10 other prostrate people, and gave the earth a great big hug. (Think snow angels, but in reverse and in the sand.) A local photographer was there to capture the moment that looked a little bit odd, I’m sure, to curious passersby out for a Sunday stroll.
This little demonstration was our way of telling Mother Earth how much we appreciate her and her beautiful ocean. Other than that small show of support, I have not done anything significant in my life to make this world a cleaner, more sustainable place to live, and I am certain my native ancestors are ashamed of me.
I’m not sure how many Native Americans would—or should—admit to this lackadaisical caretaking of our Mother Earth, but real change usually comes from a place of honesty, so I’m offering up full disclosure here.
I would like to publicly apologize to Mother Earth for all the sins I have committed against her through the years:
—I drove three gas-guzzling SUVs over 15 years. Helped greatly with carpools.
—I used disposable diapers with both my babies because it was easy, cheap and convenient.
—I released many helium-filled balloons into the sky because my daughters thought it was entertaining to see them get smaller and smaller.
—I drink 3-4 plastic bottles of water every day.
—I take long, hot showers.
—I have a bad habit of leaving lights on in rooms.
—I let the water run while brushing my teeth.
—I rinse dirty dishes instead of scraping them.
—I absolutely detest those energy-saving, corkscrew-looking light bulbs and use the old standbys.
—I don’t recycle because I don’t have room in my home for more than one garbage can.
—I prefer plastic grocery bags over reusable cloth bags.
Not to shirk responsibility, but I was a child of the '70s, that junk-filled era when polyester and flashing disco lights ruled, and pledging allegiance to only one, monochromatic color like “green” was simply not cool.
But times change, and so do people. I am coming around, thanks to my children. In the parenting world, the buzz is always about “protecting our children’s future” and making it a better place for them to live. But I don’t think we have to worry too much about them. They are the enlightened generation who are actually teaching us.
My oldest daughter carries around a refillable water bottle every day, and harps on me constantly about drinking from plastic bottles. “Mom, you’re littering the Earth,” she says. On our vacation last week, she even introduced me to a new feature at the airport: Water bottle refilling stations. Genius!
And when we were at lunch in Seattle, at a table overlooking the ocean, a single, green balloon floated by, bobbing up and down in the waves. I immediately envisioned a delighted young child giggling as she released that helium-filled treasure into the great big sky, thinking it was floating away to heaven.
My millennial daughter had another thought: “Well, there’s the Last Supper for some poor unsuspecting dolphin somewhere,” she said.
Lynn Armitage is a contributing writer in Northern California and an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.