Earth Day is coming April 22, and I can’t think of a better opportunity for Americans to get their hands dirty.
When Earth Day became an annual event in 1970 its purpose was to demonstrate support for protecting the environment.
Today, more than 1 billion people in almost 200 countries will celebrate with events coordinated globally by EarthDay.org.
One of the most common activities — one that I am thinking of doing myself this year — is to plant a garden.
If you can grow and harvest tomatoes and cucumbers in your own backyard, after all, you won’t need to buy these items in a store — items that have to be transported through the burning of fossil fuel.
I’m in favor of anything that can help all of us be better stewards of the environment, but I see additional psychological benefits from gardening that our country desperately needs.
To wit: we need to become more “down to earth,” a term that is not used much anymore.
According to Merriam-Webster, “down to earth” is defined as “demure, humble and unpretentious.” It also means “earthy,” which Merriam defines as “plain and simple in style.”
The origin of these terms is not clear, but the act of getting our hands dirty in garden topsoil sure does have the effect of making you more humble and unpretentious.
I grew up in the suburbs with a large yard. We grew tomatoes every summer and they were much larger, redder and sweeter than anything bought at the store.
Our neighbor, Mr. Bennet, had a magnificent garden that was 12×30-feet big.
He grew such an abundance of beautiful lettuce, tomatoes and zucchinis that he often shared his bounty with us and we enjoyed the most delicious salads you will ever enjoy.
Managing a garden of that size required quite a commitment.
Mr. Bennet toiled every day to nurture his vegetables. He had to pluck the weeds to protect his prized plants and he built a fence to keep the deer out.
His toil and the sweat — and the lessons he learned from nature to help his plants flourish — connected him to the realities of the natural world and brought him a peace and calm that only gardeners can know.
That is to say, Mr. Bennet was down to earth!
Unfortunately, though, as Americans have moved from the countryside to large metros, millions of us have lost any sensual connection with topsoil and nature — but even a small garden on your apartment building rooftop can fix that.
Wherever or however we can, let’s all start gardening this year.
Taking care of even a few plants will humble us, and the sounds, smells and other realities of nature will bring us back to our “common senses.”
The people who founded our country and crafted our Constitution were farmers who were closely aligned with the realities of nature — what they called the Natural Law. It is no accident that our Constitution is “plain and simple” in style.
They knew they had to understand the basic, unforgiving realities of nature if they wanted to keep their crops and animals from dying — and to help them all survive and flourish.
Down-to-earth people truly in touch with nature enjoy the gift of common sense or “horse sense”— something our country is running short of these days.
So this Earth Day, let’s begin to address this important matter — and bring calm to our souls — by planting a garden!
Copyright 2023 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, which features pet advice he’s learning from his beloved Labrador, Thurber, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected].