by Charmie Gholson
They've turned one of the fields next to Matthaei Botanical Gardens into a parking lot, and hundreds of cars are there. I've never seen this many at Matthaei before. Earth Day must be quite popular in Ann Arbor. I park next to an Excursion and head down the hill with the kids, over to where the activities are.
The first thing we encounter is a booth where young girls are handing out bright yellow plastic bags containing plastic bottles of water. The bag gives you contact info for Washtenaw County's home toxics reduction program. Apparently we can put nasty things like pesticides, mercury thermometers, and cleansers into the bag and take it to a free drop-off location for disposal.
I overhear a man say, "Oh, they're getting dirty already," and I look over to see two little girls dressed as mice or bunnies who are literally digging in wet mud. I try to get my boys to stop and join in, but they want to go to the bubble area. Masses of kids, and a few adults, are making huge bubbles from buckets of soapy water and giant wands. I stand watching for a little while until a friend offers to watch my kids so I can check out the exhibitors.
The Scrap Box is offering materials for kids to make their own costumes for the annual All Species Parade. Many local green businesses and nonprofits are here: the ReUse Center and the Ecology Center, the cohousing group. I stop by to see the modified diesel vehicles that run off used vegetable oil. I know a few folks who've done this and I really hope the government doesn't catch on and screw it all up by regulating and taxing it.
The parade starts with a great chorus of yells from the organizers. The children march along the sidewalk and back again; some of the very young ones look nearly frightened by the ruckus. There are several
butterflies (or fairies?) and other babies with ears and tails. One child simply has what looks like sponges glued to his body, and I assume he made it at the Scrap Box table. He's laughing and carrying one of the many percussive instruments that ring out across the fields.
We make our way to a very pretty little island to hear Joe Reilly sing children's songs. He reminds us that every day is Earth Day and sings clever songs about birds, mammals, trees, and of course the planet. "What can we do every day for Earth Day?" he asks and has us sing along. "Recycle, plant seeds, use only what you need, help others to see how bright nature can be."
This year's Earth Day celebration will be held at Leslie Science Center on Sunday, April 27.
[Review published April 2008]