First light in the Hudson Valley
Arbor Day of April, 1970.
Adrenaline coursed through our young
bodies, our hearts on fire with purpose.
As we rode our bikes, walked, or jogged miles
to our rural high school, red-winged blackbirds
called out from the misty swamps.
Beautiful but invading, acres of purple loosestrife
were rapidly taking over their wetland habitats.
Harbingers of the forests, blue jays issued
warning cries from deep in the woods,
where blights were killing our trees
with increasing frequency.
Three of us rode together, cycling in relative
silence, until we came to a meadow
selected for our early breakfast picnic.
We feasted on special fruits and cheeses,
hungrily stuffing in rare treats.
One friend began to send iridescent
soap bubbles into the chilly air.
Up they rose, up over the soft, puffy cloud
of her reddish curls, and into the dawning sun.
One bubble landed, unbroken, in the cold, dewy grass.
We stared at it, somehow understanding that here
was a delicate metaphor for our own fragile planet.
Approaching our school now, we breathed deeply the fragrance
of apple blossoms from commercial orchards all around us.
The spraying of pesticides had yet to be banned.*
We were sleepy in our classes that morning;
most of our teachers understanding that we stood
now for something worthwhile, that we believed in,
and they smiled with kindness, some even with approval.
Our principal agreed to an awareness-raising slide show
designed for our fellow students, teachers and parents.
An intelligent man, he was admirably tolerant of the wave
of changes that our generation brought with us.
Smoke stacks, polluted water, and dying wildlife
flashed onto a screen in the darkened auditorium,
accompanied by the vivid symphonic power of
Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring'- a score so revolutionary
that a riot broke out at its premier, in May of 1913.
We had no idea then how much worse things would become.
All these years later, we each do our part, blessing
the efforts of our children and their children,
*hoping fervently that we are not too late.
Written on Earth Day, April 22, 2016. This poem is dedicated, with special, heartfelt love, to my fellow alumni of Highland High School, Highland, NY, USA, and to our supportive parents and families. Special thanks to Gloria Caviglia for her timely, sweet reminder!
Above all, may we be blessed with active, disciplined, purposeful love for our Mother Earth, with tolerance and understanding for each other.
©Elisa Maria Argiro