Friday, April 23, 2010

Milwaukee Celebrates Earth Day in Style

As the crowd looked out at Lake Michigan, Dale Olen, the featured speaker, described the mile-thick glacier that would have filled the view, had anyone been around to see it. The wind, symbolized for the event with the figure above, was off that ultramarine lake on this beautiful, sunny Earth Day. When Olen asked us to imagine the glacier, it was not too difficult: I was stamping to keep warm and still my feet felt encased in that great block of ice. A typical April day in Wisconsin!

Except for the arctic temps, the event was wonderful. The program promised and then delivered an ambitious variety of activities, speakers, and special features.

John Clifford, a Lakota leader from South Dakota, introduced one of the most eclectic interfaith blessings I've witnessed. He opened by explaining his belief that "things happen not by planning or design, but by synchronicity." The Lakota do not believe, he went on, that everything is relative but that "all things are relatives," with a dramatic emphasis on the plural.

"Ommmmmm..." began Urmila Bharadwaj, representing the Hindu Temple of Wisconsin. She gave a litany of peace: "May there be peace on the land..." peace on the water... and then "May all the divinities bring us peace."

Sharon Lerman, of Congregation Shir Hadash read from the Torah: "We live in a world that we do not own...," an ancient Jewish echo of the Indian assertion that we live in community with the earth and the many speakers who lamented the common contemporary view of the earth as a commodity and resource for the accumulation of wealth. Jan Rutkowski, a member of the Buddhist Soka Gakkai International followed with "If the mind is not pure, then the earth is not pure."

There were Christian and Islamic participants as well; a truly ecumenical gathering, as is appropriate. Care for the earth is clearly not a sectarian issue, nor should it divide people.

The imaginative program included singing and speakers who impersonating Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, and John Muir. Antler, the esteemed former poet laureate of Milwaukee, carried off the latter with appropriate gravity. One of the highlights was when another "earth poet," Suzanne Rosenblatt led the group with a kinetic and onomatopoetic rendition of water.

Congratulations are in order for Dianne Dagalen of the Sierra Club-Great Waters Group, the event sponsor. She pulled off this remarkably complex event with grace and aplomb.

My feet finally started to thaw during the Native American round dance that concluded the festivities.

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