Bits and Bites of Everyday Life


 Happy birthday, Earth!

(please forgive us)

  Painting by Julien Mercure.  
By Geneviève Hone
True North Perspective

Geneviève Hone is a grandmother, family therapist and social worker.  With her husband, Julien Mercure (also a family therapist), she has co-authored three books on couples and family life. Her home on the web is

My walk in the park this morning could certainly not be characterized as a brisk and energizing one. Rather than following the path along the river, I am tracing lazy circles around an old tree that is just beginning to blossom. I can describe this tree as majestic, beautiful, superb, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say: “a favorite of mine” because this tree does not belong to me. My own trees, populating 52 acres of forest land, were left behind when we moved to Ottawa four years ago. They now belong to somebody else and I am reduced to living with “borrowed” trees, trees chosen and planted by people I don’t even know. I may look at these trees, admire them from afar, but I couldn’t water them, feed them and administer a little branch trim here and there. For a moment, I indulge in a bit of self-pity: poor little old lady, doomed to wander the earth without even a tree to her name, etc. We also hear that she can no longer grow a big vegetable garden either. Such a tragic story, one that is certainly bringing tears to your eyes as you read this.
The self-pity moment passes quickly, thank God. I get back to the river path and pick up a brisk walking pace to revive my brain. Self-pity tends to make my brain sluggish, not the best state for a mind striving to produce a few fresh ideas for this article. Following my friend Alberte’s lead, I intend to write about the immense urgency for all of us living on this earth to take better care of our environment. On the occasion of Earth Day, many newspaper articles, scientific reports and documentary films invited us to reflect on our relationship with our planet and hopefully take some action, each in our own way. But what can I do, right now, this morning, as I walk along a river that remains beautiful in spite of occasional floating debris and permanent litter on its shores? Adopt a river as one adopts a highway?
Well, if I’m going to consider some kind of adoption, perhaps I should start by adopting another attitude vis-à-vis my ownership of trees! Where in the world did I pick up this idea that those trees were really mine whereas I had only been granted the privilege to take good care of them and to use them well? And what exactly is it that had given me the opportunity to “borrow” my trees? Nature, Life, the Universe, God, the Cosmos? Call it what you will, I firmly believe I had been invited to continue to create a better world with my trees. When reading all those articles about the state of our planet, I reflected that humanity has not done very well with ownership. “This is mine so I can do whatever I want with it” has led to global destruction on all kinds of levels. Why don’t we just do away with the illusions and dangers of ownership and instead choose to borrow the riches of the earth? All in favor of “borrowship”, raise your hand! And prepare to work very hard, each in your own way, to help make this impossible dream happen.
Oh dear, it was Earth day a couple of weeks ago, and I didn’t even pen a note to Earth on that occasion. Where were my manners? So I sit down quietly on a bench and mentally compose a little poem for Earth. It will go somewhat like this:
Dear Earth,
We are gathered together today,
All of us who lived and still live on you,
To mark, once again, the passage of time.
Time has indeed flown since you were born.
You have always been quite bashful
About revealing your age and place of birth
But we don’t really mind.
You are old enough to decide
What you want to reveal and what you don’t.
It doesn’t matter if you are five billion years old
Or perhaps only three.
After all, our little brains are not even equipped
To grasp the reality of those numbers.
No, it doesn’t matter how old you are.
Let that be your little secret, if you so wish.
But what is finally beginning to matter to us,
And not a moment too soon,
Is that you are getting older.
We are finally beginning to notice the signs
Of wear and tear, all over you.
We are finally beginning to see
That we have walked all over you
And have worn you to pieces
And torn you apart in so many ways.
And yet you have never complained.
You continued to give us Life
And let us use this Life as we wished to.
You went dutifully on your way,
Following your trajectory through space.
You must have been so tempted at times to screech to a sudden stop
And drop us right off you, the way we were behaving.
Yet you let us stay and you kept on giving us Life.
Did you ever regret giving us Life
Instead of just letting us borrow it
Might we have behaved better
Had we been made to give you back Life
With compound interest?
Did you ever hope, deep down inside yourself,
Deep down in your fiery heart,
That we would stop behaving like spoiled brats?
Did you ever wish, in the dark of the night,
That we would wake up
And start helping you continue to give Life?
Or, if we couldn’t quite manage that,
At least start picking up after ourselves?
Did you ever wish we would grow up,
If not for your sake, at least for Heaven’s?
Dear Earth, this is your day,
This is your « Bearthday ».
This is the day we should offer you our best wishes
For a long and happy Life with many happy returns.
But we can’t quite bring ourselves to do that yet,
Because we know, deep down in our hearts
That have shown you such indifference,
We know, deep down in our hearts
That perhaps are finally opening up to you,
That we must first say
 « Please forgive us ».
I walk towards home, stopping for a moment to contemplate “my” beautiful tree. Paradoxically, I do consider that tree to be entirely mine in spite of the fact that it is only borrowed and that I share it with a few billion people. My husband greets me at the door: “Would you like some lunch?” “In about half an hour”, I reply, “I need to write down a poem to Earth.” “Of course.” says my husband.

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