I have to be honest with you.
I thought I loved nature.
I mean, this blog is called The Thinking Branch because of the place I used to go when I was a kid when I felt overwhelmed, or just wanted to sit in its beautiful sounds when I felt inspired and wanted to write my poetry.
I noticed from a young age the benefits it had — the curiosity it sparked and the peace it often created. I spent many years as a kid digging in the dirt, inspecting bugs, climbing trees and sometimes just laying in the grass appreciating the way the wind cooled off a hot summer day.
I felt bad when I stepped on bugs.
I STILL “love” nature as an adult.
I awe at oddly-shaped trees, I love spending time hiking with my family, I go for walks when I need the mental-health benefits of fresh air and I’m known to over-comment to whoever is with me when nature makes things especially peaceful at sunset.
And I still feel bad if I step on a bug.
But a few weeks ago, I participated in the Pittsburgh Parks’ Lake Elizabeth clean-up as part of the Earth Month activities … and I quickly realized there’s a whole other definition of “love” when it comes to nature.
I met people who were VOLUNTEERING four hours of their time to literally rake up MUCK. Why?
One person felt like it was his civic duty to be a part of keeping the parks clean.
Another woman frequented the lake on her walks as a local resident… and wanted to be a part of taking care of it.
Another person was an educator who used to love bringing students to the parks, and simply wanted to make sure they were taken care of for today’s kids to enjoy, too.
THAT is truly LOVING nature.
That is giving back to the earth that gives so much to us.
That is taking care of the planet that literally gives us life.
That is selflessly taking care of nature.
Participating in Earth Month over the last several weeks has made me reflect on my own relationship with the outdoors. Because while I think recognizing and appreciating the benefits of nature is important, I also wonder if I’m doing enough to take care of it.
At the end of the day, we can all do our part.
It starts with appreciation, but it also takes action to preserve it.
The Pittsburgh Parks and its volunteers are what it means to take action.
So the next time you go on a hike with your family in Frick Park, or you sit on a bench next to Lake Elizabeth at Allegheny Commons Park, or you ride your bike through Schenley Park – maybe you’ll be inspired like I have been to go to research how the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy offers you and your family opportunities to be a part of taking action to take care of the parks that we enjoy so much.
Because while this year’s “official” Earth Day has passed, we all have a chance to make sure we are an active participant in making sure Earth Day is truly… every day.
Learn more about what the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy does for our parks at www.pittsburghparks.org.