Every day is Earth Day in Upper Michigan
ESCANABA – Frogs sing – spring peepers on a warm April night.
What a thrill to hear!
A tiny white pine sapling has survived the harsh winter’s snow and the hungry deer.
A trout sizzles in a cast-iron frying pan on the stove. Just hours ago, it was caught in the river nearby. Some fresh asparagus, a bunch of fiddle-head fronds or a smidgeon of wild berries complete the harvest meal.
The cycle of life, the food chain or the balance of nature is something we see every day in Upper Michigan.
Yes, Earth Day is every day in the U.P. We are in love with our forests (even though they’re mosquito-filled at times) and our lakes and rivers (even though they’re ice-capped half the year).
We know our soil and are on a first-name basis with it. We plant it with trees, flowers, potatoes, corn and all kinds of grain.
We both hunt and hug the wild creatures of our north woods. Some days we feed birds. Some days we hunt grouse or geese. Sometimes we plant trout and sometimes we catch trout.
Most of us work hard to create or let Mother Nature create a healthy ecosystem so that a good balance of wild plants and animals can thrive at our camps, cabins or back-forties.
I’ve seen bearded Yoopers stop their pickup trucks and remove a baby turtle from the middle of the road and gently release it in the ditch on the other side.
School kids have taught whole families to recycle paper, plastic and cans. We plant trees and gardens for us, the animals, birds and butterflies. Composting, mulching and conserving water is in.
If we can snowshoe or ski half of the year, we are happy. The bike, the fishing pole, golf clubs, and canoe or kayak are ways of communing with nature in the summertime.
Earth Day is observed on April 22, but we don’t much need a calendar here in the U.P. to tell us to respect our natural environment. We live in “God’s Country” it is often said. Tourists flock to our neck of the woods to recreate. They marvel at our clean streams, waterfalls, lakes, peaceful woodlands and wildlife. They wish they could live here, too.
Earth Day was started in 1970 by a Wisconsin U.S. senator named Gaylord Nelson. After witnessing a massive oil spill in California, Senator Nelson knew he did not want to see that happen in the Great Lakes area. Back then, there were virtually no laws protecting the air, water and land. Because of Earth Day, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed.
In the U.P. most of us are not tree huggers or Bambi lovers. We are far more in tune with our natural environment than that. We live it, breathe it, and see it every day.
Most of us have traveled to the urban areas and have come back. We know the joy of living simply and as close to the Earth as we can.
Let’s celebrate Earth Day this weekend by going for a walk, a bike ride, or by doing shadow puppets in the dark with the kids.
Watch the wild and smile.
Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong resident of North Escanaba. Her folksy columns are published weekly in Lifestyles.