I see trash everywhere I go. Candy wrappers, drink bottles, used condoms, old tires. Why should we care? It's not like we live here.
At what point did we become aliens in our own world?
When I look around, I don’t see people using flora anymore. For over three-hundred-thousand years, humanity has lived in concert with nature. We’ve made use of herbs, fruits, and vegetables for food, healing, and just plain relaxing. Yet if I ask you what useful herbs grow in your back yard or in the swale by your local highway, chances are you couldn’t name more than one or two.
Passiflora incarnata, known commonly as Maypop, grows throughout the American Southeast. Its leaves, vines, and flowers can make a tea that relieves anxiety and helps you sleep. And yet, we go to the store to buy sleep aids that don’t work. Another local, hamelia patens, can be made into a tea that I’ve found to be more effective than taking four ibuprofen at once except that it won’t damage your stomach. And for the icing, the berries are edible.
Yet if I grab some berries while I’m out and someone sees me eat them, they look at me funny. Shouldn’t I know that only food that I paid for at the grocery store is good to eat?
When I take my son to soccer practice, I cut open two coconuts from the trees in our backyard for him to have something to drink; it’s better than ‘sports drinks’ and cheaper, too. I have neighbors with coconuts turning brown on the tree only to have their hired landscapers trim them off and throw them away.
It’s not just the foods we eat or the herbs we pass by.
It’s cold here for Florida this winter: 53° F. Too cold to go outside, apparently. Yet in the summer it’s too hot to go outside. We run the heater when it’s cold and the A/C when it’s hot. The house, it seems, is an enclosed capsule to keep us separate from the world in which we live. Yet we don’t live in it, do we?
How many constellations can you name on sight?
Right now, this moment, do you know what phase the moon is in?
We wear wool, but how many of us have pet a sheep? When was the last time you watched a bird hatch from an egg? Or seen a butterfly emerge from the chrysalis and dry its wings for the first time?
When was the last time you swam in the ocean? Or dropped from a tire swing into a river?
I saw a textbook approved by the Florida Department of Education that asked children what they should wear in the snow or what color the trees turned in autumn. It doesn’t snow here, and they stay green.
We go shopping, and we barely go down to the store anymore. Everything is online. It gets delivered to us. Drive down to the convenience store; it’s less than a mile away. So convenient.
If you did walk, let me tell you what you’d see.
Trash. Candy bar wrappers, drink bottles, used condoms, shopping bags, boxes. Maybe you’d see someone who doesn’t have a capsule to close themselves off from the world. It’s almost as though we’re not really connected to the Earth anymore. But then why should anybody care?
It’s not like we live here.
Michael Patrick Lewis is a teacher, math nerd, and exhausted father of two. Check out my latest book, A Dance to Remember, a gripping romance that will leave you in tears. You can also find me on Twitter @fakeMikeLewis.