Ever since I was a child growing up beside the Willapa River in Raymond, Washington and spending summers Hood Canal, I learned that it was my choices that determined the health of my and the world's environment. At our cabin, the water for drinking and washing dishes became precious as the well dried up as the summer went. We saved dishwater in a bucket and used that to flush the toilet. We were never allowed to throw trash out the window; even though my father smoked when I was young, he crushed out cigarettes in the car. At home we lined the kitchen garbage can with the local newspapers. We also ate a lot of leftovers: mom always cooked a huge batch of boiled potatoes-eight children grew up in our house-and any leftover became hash, fried potatoes, or hashbrowns. Pot roast became sandwiches. And we loved the heels on bread! For breakfast, Dad cooked hot cereal-oatmeal or Cream of Wheat or Roman Meal and, occasionally, cornmeal-in the Revere Ware pot. He always double-boiled it so it produced the creamiest cereal ever! Then someone covered an oven rack with bread and made toast. I don't know why, but oven toast tastes so much better than toast made in a toaster. If there was cereal leftover, it was spooned into a loaf pan, then sliced and fried later and served with butter and syrup or jelly or brown sugar or honey.
We kids made do with very few toys; I played with cars and trucks as much as my brothers did! Outside in the driveway, one of us used a broom to sweep roads for them. And as each of us grew up, we learned to ride a bicycle on our sister's red and white Schwynn bicycle. When chopper motorcycles became popular, my brother, Jerry, and a friend, fixed metal pipes on the forks of their bicycles and made chopper bikes. They also took boards to the road and made jumps. Dad always had boards and tools and leftover stuff around. Dad created stilts for us though I never did try them; my sister Petra got pretty good with them, though! We also played a lot of games outside in the Spring and Summer: Kick the Can, Hide-n-Seek, Midnight, Midnight, backyard baseball, and tag football(Dad didn't want the backyard torn up!).
Five apple trees grew out back: Transparents, Banana-Apples, King, and two others of which I don't recall the names. Mom made frozen applesauce which Dad eventually took over. He cooked the apples, unpeeled with the core intact, until they cooked down and then he pressed the mixture through a cone colander with a pestle(?). Then, he added a little honey, though not much because of the sweetness of the apples. Though we didn't grow a garden because both of our parents worked, after Dad suffered a heart attack, he became passionately interested in nutrition. He bought a juicer and also started making his own orange yogurt. Vegetables became a bigger part of our diet: once or so a week we ate vegetarian for dinner. One of Mom's co-workers sent home bags of peas and they became our snacks: I don't remember any of them ever getting cooked. She also sold us raw milk; Mom skimmed off three-quarters of the cream for morning coffee.
When I was in fourth grade, I read the biography of John Muir and it inspired me to become more aware of my environment as well as taking care of what we have. I was in 6th grade when the first Earth Day was celebrated and I remember notebooks made of recycled paper. Along with learning to conserve and recycle(it wasn't called that until I was twelve), I learned about nutrition along the way a well as having new eyes for how we treat the land and the water.
I have not been perfect; I've let food go bad in the fridge, sometimes I allow myself to eat more junk food than is good for my body, and, like so many people, I have a tendency to hoard(though it is confined to one space). Then, again, I know I am a work in progress; I am open to learning and am a voracious information researcher. In the last two years, I've eliminated crippling beliefs and learned to dissolve occurrings. These two things have opened up my world even more; I am even more aware of environmental causes though I think that people and the environment can live in harmony. We all possess imagination and creativity; do we use it for good or ill? In the end, our individual choices will determine, in a major way, whether our planet remains a place of beauty and support or a garbage dump. And this will be determined by how we are raised in our individual families and the messages we receive from our parents. Are those messages damaging or beneficial? And, if they are, do you have the courage to change them so that Earth remains a viable and nurturing home for generations to come?