It turns out that the great love of my has been nature. Nothing and no one has given me — or asked from me — anything comparable. The photo above is of me, Dusty and my tree — it’s been my tree since I was fifteen. That tree taught me pretty much everything I have needed to know about faith, perseverance, beauty and survival. A tiny bit of it went into the ground with my dad when he was buried in Montana in 1972.
Back in the day, when people were marching against the War in Vietnam and all manner of things, the only demonstration in which I participated was that of the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.
I was a senior in high school in Colorado Springs. I had my mom’s car (I don’t remember why). I ditched school with a bunch of my friends and we went to Colorado College in the center of the city. The demonstration was small compared to what I saw on TV in places like Chicago or Detroit or San Francisco. There were a few signs “Save the Earth!” and a banner painted on a sheet. It was a beautiful morning. Some people gave speeches and I don’t remember what they said. I was thrilled at the idea of a movement to clean up the world. I’d chosen the topic of my speech because I didn’t think any other issues really mattered. I’d even had a letter to the editor published in Look Magazine.
When it was over, I drove everyone back to school, doing things in my mom’s car (riding fast over dips and humps in the road trying to catch air) that probably should not have been done in a 1964 Ford Galaxie 500.
At that time, I was also wandering around the State of Colorado attending speech meets, competing in Original Oratory. In this event, student write and present 10 minute original speeches on topics of their choice. Mine was the Earth. Back then there was no EPA, and regulations on companies to protect nature did not exist. A typical day in LA was so smoggy people could not see the sun. It was feared that Lake Michigan was a dead lake. Gas was not yet unleaded; the catalytic converted had not been invented — or was being invented. I wasn’t privy to the latest news on automotive technology at the time. My speech — among other things — taught me that the best way to overcome terror of speaking in public is to believe in your message and its importance to others. It was (in part) wry and ironic, with the kind of sophistication only shared by 17-18 year olds. For example:
“Blue sky does get monotonous. The public spirited people of LA and New York have provided their populations with the opportunity to enjoy something new — a brandy colored atmosphere. Green is a dull, drab, and ugly color, and, since the Grand Canyon is such a lovely place to vacation, why not let everyone live there? Don’t plant grass and support your local bulldozer. Our recreation facilities and National Parks are getting better all the time. It’s much easier to catch a fish if it’s already dead, and with all of the beer cans scattered around Yellowstone Park, everyone feels like he’s back in his own living room.”
I took second place in the state. I was beat out by a kid with an anti-Vietnam war speech.
And I thought this song was GREAT!
But the best part of my little speech was not the part I wrote, but a quotation I took from a speech by Adlai Stevenson. I still think it says everything, and beautifully.