Earth Day
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Senses and Sounds Summon Sensibility

Things to Know with Nancy Jo

As Earth Day approaches, I’m pondering the irony of last year’s event and how my outlook on life matured in a seemingly long but yet ever-so-brief year. Employing our senses brought about an awareness, a sensibility.

 2020 marked the 50th anniversary of the day set aside to appreciate nature. April 22, 2021, will be the 51st annual event. Earth Day reminds us to be good stewards of the planet God entrusted us to inhabit. Its intention is for us to reduce, reuse, recycle and for us to plant trees, wildflowers, and awareness.

The irony of last year’s milestone anniversary of Earth Day is that our world was actually the quietest and most unpolluted it’s been for decades. Like many people, I spent last April working remotely via virtual gatherings and online communication. Leisure time took place outdoors as our weather was warm enough to be outside and yet cool enough not to swelter. Our family rediscovered marvels as we “sheltered in place” doing our small part to stop the spread of the virus.

I vividly remember the month of April 2020 with all five of my senses. Food tasted sweeter than it had in years. Flowers, grass, and breezes smelled fresher. Skies looked bluer and cloud games resumed as the norm they had been when our children were young. Touching other people or other things called for consciousness as risk factors were weighed based on the science known at the time about the mysterious Covid-19. Yet the most prominent memory involving my five senses is the quietness I heard.

One particular evening as Mark and I talked on our back patio and reflected on our workday, he said, “Listen…do you hear that?” I answered that I had not heard anything. “Exactly,” he said.

All we could hear were the beautiful, novel noises of nature. No annoying, noisy trucks from nearby highways. No whirs of motorcyclists. No sirens. With fewer travelers on the road, nature’s own symphony could be heard. Our backyard birds seemed to sing louder, the crickets chirped with extra vigor, and armies of frogs competitively croaked like they had never before. Last spring was like stepping back in time to 1972 when kids like me played outdoors until daylight evaporated.

In a unique way, the Covid-19 pandemic gifted our planet. We not only felt the effects in our backyards; it was evident everywhere. For example, in Italy, the famed canal of Venice, typically considered dirty and stinky, became remarkably clear. Fish, even jellyfish, could be seen swimming in its waters.

For some people, last year’s Earth Day seems a distant memory. For others, it seems like yesterday. Next week we have a chance to recognize it again. This year’s theme is “Restore Our Earth.” Two local events offer opportunities to share the occasion. The first is 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 20, at Lucedale City Park. The highlight is a sign installation recognizing the park’s path to becoming a certified arboretum. The second event is from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 22, at the Pascagoula River Audubon in Moss Point. That event will begin with a tree planting in memory of Jackie McDonald, late wife of Boy Scout icon Harry McDonald. Children’s activities and a native plant sale are slated for the evening. Coast Motel, a local musical group, will entertain from Dixie’s Perch.

If you can’t make either of those events, it’s super easy to participate in your own backyard. If nothing else, simply go outside and sit with your senses.


Written by Nancy Jo Maples

Nancy Jo Maples is an award-winning journalist who has written about Mississippi people and places for more than 30 years. A former daily staff news reporter for the Mississippi Press, she currently writes for various media and teaches communication at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Reach her at [email protected]


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