As world leaders gather in New York to sign the climate accord reached in Paris in December, let’s celebrate Earth Day with a poem by William Wordsworth.
In 1802, the world outside our window looked a bit different. On a walk with his sister Dorothy, Wordsworth observed a “long belt” of daffodils, inspiring him to pen I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.
The poem captures the essence of Earth Day: preserving the beauty of nature, and the life affirming inspiration of a simple walk outdoors.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Paul Hawken, the entrepreneur, environmentalist, journalist and author adressed the graduating class at the University of Portland in May, 2009. His lifelong focus has been sustainability and he has successfully changed the relationship of business to the environment in all of his endeavors.
In his speech he spoke of our relationship to the earth, particularly in these challenging economic times when it would be easy to declare environmental issues an expense item vs. a way to create jobs and generate revenue.
“There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.”
I encourage you to read the entire text of the speech. It frames the issue of preserving the earth in poetic term with realistic urgency. But his words do not just apply to our environmental challenges. They can be applied to any obstacle you encounter on the way to your dream.
“Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn’t stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss.The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.”