• Susannah Colt

SERENDIPITY - when inspiration strikes

Serendipity was my word of the day on Earth Day. A confluence of events of that day served as inspiration for this essay.

I had been struggling with writer’s block for about two weeks despite the wealth of news, like Education Commissioner Edelblut’s press release attacking teachers, which is his way of discrediting public education in order to advance his preference for charter schools, but I will leave that for another day.

Sometimes inspiration flows not from the news but from something I’m doing. If I wait long enough, something usually clicks. Being spring up here in the North Country, where the weather has been winter-like again after a teaser of real spring-like weather, I was constrained from beginning my garden work, so I switched to inside spring cleaning. I decided it was time to cull my closets, find a new home for the massive amount of archival material I’ve collected about my father, and deal with a winter’s worth of filing and culling old files.

During the culling and filing process I stumbled upon a poem I had written in 1970, when I was 12 years old. It was probably a school assignment, but since its National Poetry Month, I figured why not share it. But don’t get too excited – a poet I am not and I know it. The poem’s theme is well worn and crosses generations and decades, something that seems to be ever present. I didn’t give it a title, but here is the body:

The feeling of separation

I have witnessed a great deal.

‘Tis a sorrowful feeling to feel.

To be separated

from one another,

if it be from

your mother or father,

can be quite depressing

and very heart breaking.

To be separated

from the world,

be it by fence

or be it by line,

can make you feel

quite confined.

Border lines,

why must they be.

Can’t understanding

exist between you and me.

Okay, so, that may not exactly be poetry in the true sense of the definition, but some of the words rhyme and it certainly cries out for interpretation. I wrote that poem during the time my parents were separated and contemplating divorce (which they ultimately decided against, thankfully), which explains my obsession with “separation.” How my personal experience with separation transitioned to world separation and borders and misunderstandings eludes me decades later, but there appears to be some prescience in the final sentiment.

Borders are fodder for so much angst in this world. Trump trumpeted his border to his advantage. Putin is ignoring a border and committing genocide to achieve his authoritarian goal.

If we could just come to an understanding, peace could prevail; as simplistic a notion today as it was in 1970, when the war in Vietnam probably inspired that portion of my poem. My brother was approaching draft age and we were anxiously awaiting the notification of his number, envisioning the worst-case scenario of separation (turned out his number was high so he was not drafted and nobody in my family felt the war was justified so he did not volunteer).

1970 was also the year the first official Earth Day was launched to counteract the national obliviousness of the effects of pollution on mother earth. By the end of 1970 the Environmental Protection Agency was created, and a slew of environmental laws were passed, including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean Air Act. Two years later, Congress passed the Clean Water Act. A year after that, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act and soon after the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. See, earthday.org/history.

In my hometown of Dayton, the City Beautiful Council started the first city-wide recycling center in 1970. My sister and I volunteered to work at the center and for the next 6 years I either volunteered or was a paid worker at the center, raising my awareness about the importance of recycling as a way to save the earth.

In 1976, I matriculated to Chatham College to obtain my bachelor’s degree, which I did in 1980. I quickly learned that Rachel Carson, who is described as the mother of the environmental movement because of her seminal book Silent Spring, also graduated from Chatham College (formerly known as Pennsylvania Women’s College). I am proud to claim her as a fellow-alum.

On April 22, 2022, I woke up as I always do, and began reading my papers, one of which was The New York Times. There was an article about the best cordless electric lawn mowers on the market and it finally gave me the push I needed to click the “Buy Now” button. Later, after the deed was done, I realized what day it was. I’d just purchased an environmentally friendly lawn mower on Earth Day, a serendipitous way to mark the day we honor the earth, and what a guilt-free great new toy I get to play with when it gets here.

Author’s Note: I did not submitting this for publication in The Concord Monitor. I found it a bit trite and self-serving, so you, my subscribers, are the only eyes seeing this piece.

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