Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! Really, it should be Earth Day everyday! I might be biased, but then again, this is the only home we have. When thinking of Earth Day, or just trying to be more eco-minded, my focus isn’t only on what we can do to protect the environment, but it’s also about learning and realizing just how amazing nature is!

This poem by Walt Whitman seems perfect for today. It reminds us of how the earth creates beauty and life from death and decay. As he says, earth takes our “sour dead” and “It distils such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor”. She gives back life. Beautiful, nourishing and amazing. Nature “grows such sweet things out of such corruptions”.

What a chemistry, indeed!

This Compost

By Walt Whitman


Something startles me where I thought I was safest;
I withdraw from the still woods I loved;
I will not go now on the pastures to walk;
I will not strip the clothes from my body to meet my lover the sea;
I will not touch my flesh to the earth, as to other flesh, to renew me.

O how can it be that the ground does not sicken?
How can you be alive, you growths of spring?
How can you furnish health, you blood of herbs, roots, orchards, grain?
Are they not continually putting distemper’d corpses within you?
Is not every continent work’d over and over with sour dead?

Where have you disposed of their carcasses?
Those drunkards and gluttons of so many generations;
Where have you drawn off all the foul liquid and meat?
I do not see any of it upon you to-day or perhaps I am deceiv’d;
I will run a furrow with my plough I will press my spade through the sod, and turn it up underneath;
I am sure I shall expose some of the foul meat.
Behold this compost! behold it well!
Perhaps every mite has once form’d part of a sick person Yet behold!
The grass of spring covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noislessly through the mould in the garden,
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-branches,
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale visage out of its graves,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the mulberry-tree,
The he-birds carol mornings and evenings, while the she-birds sit on their nests,
The young of poultry break through the hatch’d eggs,
The new-born of animals appear the calf is dropt from the cow, the colt from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato’s dark green leaves,
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk the lilacs bloom in the door-yards;
The summer growth is innocent and disdainful above all those strata of sour dead.
What chemistry!
That the winds are really not infectious,
That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash of the sea, which is so amorous after me,
That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked body all over with its tongues,
That it will not endanger me with the fevers that have deposited themselves in it,
That all is clean forever and forever.
That the cool drink from the well tastes so good,
That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy,
That the fruits of the apple-orchard, and of the orange-orchard that melons, grapes, peaches, plums, will none of them poison me,
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch any disease,
Though probably every spear of grass rises out of what was once a catching disease.
Now I am terrified at the Earth! it is that calm and patient,
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such endless successions of diseas’d corpses,
It distils such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor,
It renews with such unwitting looks, its prodigal, annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings from them at last.

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Ocean Echoes by Sheila Hurst

I rarely win things, but when I do, they’re worth mentioning! Last November, I won a signed copy of Ocean Echoes by Sheila Hurst, author and fellow blogger. This is her debut novel and her book was a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Way to go, Sheila!

ocean echoes

As she watched and filmed, she felt the amazement grow within her, that amazement that came through whenever she observed life in all its forms and sizes and colors. Here is an animal hidden within the sea, pulsing with life and light. It is its own entity, yet it is part of the ocean, while all other species living within the ocean are also part of it. The ocean hummed with life. So many forms of life, so much variety, there was so much life everywhere creeping and crawling, swimming and flying. Ellen could only watch and wonder.

The story is about Ellen Upton, a marine biologist who studies Jellyfish, who needs to make a significant discovery in order to keep her funding. So, she sets out on a research cruise to the Atoll Islands to see what she can find. There, she makes an amazing discovery, but this discovery is troubling and, ultimately, leads to even more questions.

I enjoyed this book. It was well-written with some beautiful descriptions of marine life. I would describe this story as a good ocean mystery, with some history mixed in and a dash of science fiction added to get your attention. It also ties in Ellen’s own personal journey of discovery and offers a look at the life of our oceans that has me wanting to read and learn more about it.

It opens with a mystery and as the story progresses, it taps into that mix of curiosity, fear and excitement scientists must feel at possibly discovering something new.

The story seemed to really move once they set sail on the cruise ship. I liked her developing friendship with fellow scientist Michael Holbrook, and, as intellectual equals, they could really challenge one another, especially on the topic of climate change. These two characters saw climate change differently and often debated the issue.

For a while there, I thought Ellen was being illogical and irrational as she was trying to figure things out. She may have simply been overwhelmed, but it may also reflect her need to break out of her mold and open herself up to new ways of seeing the world. She did eventually see things more clearly and I liked how the scientific pieces came together along with some interesting history.

This book focuses on ocean life and there was a figurative view of the ocean portrayed. It was interesting to read about some of the local legends as well such as calling the sea turtles with song and there was a magical butterfly experience that many people would treasure. I was pretty certain that her drink was spiked in order to create such a moment, but Sheila didn’t take it in that direction. Instead, she makes way to appreciate the magic and mystery of the ocean, and with it, respect for nature. It was interesting that Ellen would come back to the song of the sea turtles and wondered if the people of the islands had more respect for nature because of their belief in the magic and mystery. It’s an interesting question and for the most part I agree. There is mystery in the vastness of the ocean and that so much is still undiscovered and unknown. And the more we learn the more in awe we are. There is also magic and mystery in the very miracle of life. Look at the ecosystems that exist and flourish without human intervention. In the book she mentioned a type of jellyfish that survives by allowing algae to live in its tentacles. Or the fact that some species of eels start out as males and later become female. Weird, yet fascinating! There is a great deal of mystery and magic in life which encourages curiosity and respect. However, sadly, this is not always the case.

The author is concerned about the state of our oceans and is doing her part to raise awareness. In her Author’s Note, at the end, she shares some headlines from 2010 (when the story takes place) that were both cause for concern and that showed hope for the future. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go towards non-profit groups working to protect the ocean and it has made me want to learn more about ocean advocacy.

Thank you, Sheila! Winning a copy of Ocean Echoes was a good thing worth mentioning. 🙂