Oh, man. It’s that time again. Time for all the commercials about whipping your body into shape. To make promises to quit smoking, spend more time with the kids, or finally clean out the spare closet. Very rarely do we pause in the daily routine of our lives to contemplate who we are and who we want to be. The advent of the New Year seems to be the time in our culture to commit to becoming a better person in one way or another. But you don’t need me to tell you how infrequently these things stick. It turns out the lofty visions of ourselves as healthier, kinder, calmer, happier beings can only come as a result of real change, and change is one thing we just aren’t comfortable with. It’s hard, it hurts, it’s scary and uncertain. Change is almost always eyed with suspicion.
I don’t doubt you could do a five-minute internet search and find a million websites offering advice on how to really stick to your resolutions this year. And, I certainly wouldn’t discourage you from trying to make life choices that support a healthier, happier you. But I’d like to offer my own advice for the New Year. Make the change that can be as small or big, simple or challenging as you make it; resolve to connect with the life in and around you this year.
We can help you achieve this goal! As Naturalists, we spend our lives making connections between nature and people, who all too frequently float around in a man-made world they forget is only possible because of the soil, water, and life around them. We don’t want to shock anyone with woeful numbers of declining species, or force you to listen about why recycling matters. Our agenda is a whole lot more pleasant than that.
Cleveland Metroparks Naturalists help to close the gap between people and the natural world
We want to teach you to celebrate joy in life! Let us interrupt your day by showing you the marvel of a bird’s feather. We’ll give you the reason to look up for a moment, feel the snow melt on your face, and just be. We’ll point out the life surrounding you, and share the secret of how all these creatures not only survive but thrive, even in the middle of winter. Sometimes people tell me they are struck by how much enthusiasm I can have for something as inconsequential as a spider, a seed, a hot compost pile. How could I not? They are the genesis of possibility. Every breath I take is a journey. The bacteria in my gut play out a drama grander than Shakespeare ever produced. In a world where we’re taught that bills and work and cars and phones and clothes and all other sorts of rubbish are the things that really matter, it’s not surprising to me that we forget what a buzzing, electrical, magical miracle life is. But, it is sad.
You've got a lotta life in you: bacteria outnumber our human cells 10:1
Change isn’t easy, but the inevitability of it is the oldest lesson our planet can teach. We are right now faced with a changing world, and the ways we choose to adapt to it will define who we will be. Let’s not turn a blind eye to the slow decay of apathy and complacency that haunts our modern culture, and numbly accept a world where people prefer the glow of a TV to the setting sun, kids think food comes from “the store,” and a celebrity’s tweets garner more attention that a chickadee’s.
Infinitely cooler than TMZ
Let’s value life. Let’s create a world where our neighbors work to sustain one another, where soil and water are worth more than pieces of paper with dead guys’ faces on them, where wildlife is equal to human life, and where kids will recognize the trees in their yard instead of branded products.
Want your kids to eat more veggies? Teach them how to grow them. Food is a powerful tool.
Celebrate life. It’s easy and fun. Put up a birdfeeder. Go on a hike and look for animal tracks. Grow food. Learn the names of the plants in your yard. Blow dandelion wishes with your kids. Help a neighbor put up a rain barrel. Tolerate insects, moles, and other “pests.” Visit a nature center, and ask us questions. Enjoy one of our programs, learn a new skill, laugh with others. Buy less stuff, because all resources are precious and finite and come from the earth. Eat organic food, because poisons don’t belong in your body or the soil. Advocate for safer, greener neighborhoods in areas of town where no one cares to go, or to think about. You can dream as big as the sky, or make small, personal choices. They all add up in favor of good, and of life. And the best part of all? You won’t want to stop. You will feel the magic of air in your lungs, the power of the forests around you, the ancient awesomeness of the rocks in the river. The smiles and connections you share with others in the process will reawaken the elemental fire of community and compassion in your heart. And slowly, with every small change you make and life you nurture, the world will become a better place.