By Bruce Stambaugh
As far as I’m concerned, everyday should be Earth Day.
I got that attitude from my late parents. They weren’t environmental activists to be sure. But they appreciated nature, each in their own way. They respected the environment and taught their five children to do the same.
Dad loved to hunt and fish. As we grew up, he had each of his three sons tag along while he hunted. I don’t know why he didn’t involve our two sisters. I remember Dad once being so keen-eyed that he caught a cottontail rabbit with his bare hands. No buckshot was every fired.
When we were old enough, we joined him hunting pheasants, squirrels, rabbits and grouse. Dad saw the benefits of hunting, being outdoors, bringing home game, teaching his children about wildlife and conservation.
Since I tended to be a fair-weather sportsman, I preferred fishing. Problem was, when you went fishing with Dad, it was an all day deal no matter whether the fish were biting or not.
Dad loved to take his grandchildren on lazy cruises on his pontoon boat on his favorite fishing lake, Clendening. He would motor up Coleman’s Run to one of the many giant, sandstone outcroppings, and tie up. It didn’t matter if we caught much or not. We lounged in the warmth of the afternoon sun and the fellowship.
There was just something about being out in the fresh air, taking in the natural beauty all around. One time we even heard a black bear scratching its claws on a tree trunk.
Our gentle mother gave us a more cultured look at caring for and appreciating the earth. She was an accomplished artist, and loved painting landscapes, usually in watercolor.
Using both vibrant and soft colors, Mom perfectly captured nature in her many seasonal moods. There is a sparkling stream cutting through a dormant, snowy pasture, a gently curving country road that leads your eye past a vernal woods on the left and a Victorian farmstead on the right, and a glowing array of blazing Holmes County, Ohio fall foliage, and a thousand more.
Mom even captured Dad on canvas. He is a mere silhouette, shotgun over shoulder, walking back to their cabin, empty handed as usual. Dad admired that painting in part because his lovely wife chose him as the subject. He also loved it for the scene, a lone hunter hiking through a shaded glen, the glassy lake shimmering in the background. It certainly reflected Dad’s child-like spirit of simply enjoying the invigorating experience of nature.
As a youngster, I remember helping Dad plant hundreds of tree seedlings on a steep, abandoned farm field overlooking Clendening. Thrusting those sprigs into the loamy earth was much more than a kind act of conservation. It was a true lesson in hope.
I say that because now I enjoy the view from the porch of the cottage that the folks built. My wife and I bought and remodeled it and use it in much the same way as Mom and Dad. We enjoy sharing the same woodsy lushness, the forest creatures, the starry nights, and the quiet calm as Mom and Dad.
Just like Dad did with his children and grandchildren, I can stand on the porch, point across the lake to the grove of tall pines and tell a story about when they once fit in the palm of a young boy’s hand.
Thanks to my savvy parents, Earth Day doesn’t just happen in April.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2013