By Keith Turman
I grabbed a sharp knife from the kitchen drawer and headed out toward the street to meet up with my friends. Our next-door neighbor was looking after me while my parents were away. She was British. I think she was a nun, or maybe she played for the national rugby team. She looked like a rugby player. I can’t remember because I was only four. I think that’s the reason she screamed and started chasing me. I ran for my life. In retrospect, I’m not sure what’s worse, a four-year-old casually walking out of the house with a knife, or a built-like-a-rugby-player English nanny chasing a four-year-old walking casually with a knife. We ran in circles around the front yard until she caught me by the ear. At the time, I was more upset about missing an adventure to the rubber trees with my friends than the pain inflicted by these ear-twisting, very muscular fingers.
My world was full of discovery in those days; all my senses delighted by Indonesia’s wildlife and fauna. We ate rambutan and durian and kerupuk. We rode a water buffalo. Our pet was a little brown monkey. We named him Brownie. Turmans are very creative when it comes to naming our pets. My first dog was a little brown beagle. You can probably guess her name. The rubber trees were my favorite. We would hike for what seemed like miles into the Indonesian jungle, cut into the bark of the tree, rub the sap onto the palms of our hands, let it dry for a moment, and then roll it up into a ball. We would repeat the process until the rubber ball was big enough for playing games.
Monday was Earth Day. When I was a kid, it seems like every day was earth day. It was the same with my kids when they were small. Maybe it’s because kids are closer to the ground. It’s a known fact that when kids turn two, parents rediscover caterpillars. Our television would usually be tuned into The Animal Planet or The Discovery Channel. We love discovering wild things, so we would chase lightening bugs and catch black snakes or lie in the driveway at three o’clock in the morning to watch the once-in-a-lifetime meteor shower. It seems that big people quickly lose the ability to marvel at the wonders of creation. I think we simply stop paying attention. The prophet Isaiah said, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The earth is sacred and holy. My favorite spiritual practice is to readjust my proximity to the ground, reclaim childlike wonder, and notice stuff. I love standing in my cornfield dangerously close to the pollinators, heart pounding with a mixture of fear and amazement.
We hear a lot of talk about being green. We are encouraged to shop green, build green, and invest green. Kermit says, “It’s not easy being green,” and he’s right. I never remember to actually use my reusable grocery bags. They simply live in my truck while I continue to add plastic grocery bags to the landfills and oceans. This year, Chan and I celebrated Earth Day by watching the first installment of the new Netflix series, Our Planet. We were warned that they don’t pull any punches, showing the negative impact our actions have on the planet. Chan was too disturbed to sleep that night. Animals on land and sea are disappearing at alarming rates, and entire ecosystems are threatened, in large measure by our abuse and neglect of creation. It’s not supposed to be this way. When God created the good earth, God put us in charge. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). The stewardship of our planet matters, and our track record is questionable. An annual reminder is important for sure, but it’s certainly not enough to make the difference. As keepers of the garden, let’s claim our responsibility and make every day Earth Day. And maybe in the cool of the evening, when the eyes of God survey the landscape, we might hear the voice of God whisper, “This is really good.”