Like breathing, health and love, it is easy to take the earth for granted—till something goes horribly wrong. As another Earth Day approaches I am resolved to be more mindful of all four. I work for a nonprofit that cleans up polluted toxic sites in developing countries, so I know well the toll on humans when we abuse the privilege of living within a fragile ecosystem. I am also an inveterate traveler and have been circumnavigating the globe for four decades. On my travels I try to see and experience as much as possible and cherish the sheer variety of life. Here are three recent trips that have allowed me to witness the multifarious glories of our planet and reflect on the miracles of ordinary life.
Walkway over the Hudson. 90 miles due north of New York City, the Walkway spans the mile-width of the Hudson River and rises 200 feet above it. It is an ideal vantage point from which to contemplate the birth of rivers (the majestic Hudson begins its journey from Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondack Mountains, as romantic-sounding a birthing as could be) and their life force. Go in the winter and you can also muse on the three states that water assumes—liquid, solid and steam—all of which are visible as the ice crackles and floats downriver.
Northeast Kingdom, VT. Abutting the Canadian border, this remote area is apparently where Vermonters go for their wilderness. Walk out on a frozen lake to visit the ice fishermen. While the humans are worthy of respect for handling bone-chilling weather and having invented tools to bore through three feet of ice, I marvel at the fish that live in those frigid waters. Their cousins can survive in deep-sea hydrothermal vents at temperatures nearing the boiling point of water and with the acidity of vinegar. This adaptation of creatures to their environments is to me one of the most amazing aspects of life on earth.
Borough Market, London. Existing since Roman times, the entire market is a paean to Earth’s bounty. Nibble at the free samples in Neal’s Yard Dairy, where the cheeses bear the name not only of the farm but the person who actually made them. Wander by the Spanish section with fragrant hams hanging from the ceiling and five-liter tins of olive oil. Sample pomegranate-studded babaganoush, stuffed vine leaves and hot Libyan harissa in the Arab corner. Or try the intensely smoky chorizo and soft serra cheese made from sheep grazing in one of the coldest and highest regions of Portugal. It is soul-satisfying to experience the sheer exuberance of all that is good and edible and found here.
I haven’t yet fixed my destination on April 22nd but know one thing for certain. Wherever I am, I will pause to honor and cherish my planet, offer thanks for its life sustenance, and promise to take care of it, in sickness and health.
This article was first published on Yahoo! Associated Content