The year was 1994 when my wife presented me with a gift. It was not my birthday, Valentine Day or our anniversary. Just another day of the year and therefore just another day to affirm each other’s presence. You see, my wife and I have never been on the Hallmark timeline of gift giving. For us, it is not unusual to come home affirming presence without a formal nudge. The opportunity and choice is always there. As Tanya Tucker reminds, “Well, if your heart is in them flowers, bring ’em on.”
On this day, the gift was unusual – a gift that would linger with increasing relevance. It was a book by Schim Schimmel titled “Dear Children of the Earth – A letter from Home.”
As I gazed at the cover, I immediately connected, as had my wife upon finding the book at Borders*. (*By the way, for those who are wondering – Borders was a bookstore once upon a time when we depended on libraries and bookstores. In 1994 Borders was the place to find the latest best sellers. Name the subject and Borders was the Google and Kindle of its time.
To receive a book as a gift was also not unusual because we were teachers. Both in love with language – she a Reading Specialist and I a 2nd language acquisition instructor. Stories and counterstories taught us about the world and its people. We shared many passions, such as the respect and reverence for the learning<>teaching process, the frailty of the human condition and the wonders of Mother Earth.
Upon receiving the book, I quickly noticed the title, a planet with earth in the far distance with two solitary tigers looking out into space. It was one of those book covers that causes pause. My eyes returned to the title . . . “Dear Children of the Earth.” The title was an instant grabber for teachers . . . not to mention those of us who carry the title of parent and grandparent.
My first impression was, “Wow – what a photographic montage!” My wife corrected me. They were not photographs – Schim Schimmel was author and artist. So who was this incredible artist who was also writing about Mother Earth? An overview of Schim Schimmel was on the last page of the book,
“Schim Schimmel has been a professional artist and musician for several years. He studied watercolor and oil painting, but now prefers to work with acrylics. All the original paintings from the pages of this book were done in acrylics. To emphasize his own concern for the environment, Schimmel began writing lyrics and stories to accompany his unique art work. Dear Children of the Earth is the result of combing these two creative talents into one powerful piece.”
And so I began my journey into his renderings and language. The first words, “Dear Children of the Earth,” a direct connection to all children . . . but beyond . . . to all of us who at some point live our lives as children. The book was also a tribute to all of us who carry the honorable and responsible title mentors of the young. The letter was direct.
“I am writing this letter to ask for your help. Do you know who I am? I am the plant earth. But I am much more than just a planet. I am your home. I am your mother earth.”
With each page Schimmel continued to provide awareness that Mother Earth and all of her children are special – unique and precious needing love and care.
On each page Mother Earth explains the depth and breadth of her natural wonders along with art that truly needs to be in the hands of the observer in order to appreciate the profound intricate and detailed artistry.
As Mother Nature often does, she tends to get our attention one way or another. And so she does in this book,
“I see all of you! I see you because you, too, are my children. All of the animals that live on me are your brothers and sisters! We are all one big family.”
The pages that follow begin to ask more of young readers – to think of how the environment is being impacted by those who do not see Mother Earth, the animals, the children as a family.
Schimmel, through his language and artistry honors and respects the capacity of young minds to deal with complex ideas and issues providing a challenge by way of a request . . .
“And so, my children, I need your help.” . . . “I need you to love me. That’s all. Just love me as much as I love you. Because when you love me, you will care for me. And when you care for me, you will protect me. And when you care for me and protect me, you will save your home, and the homes of your sister and brother animals.”
The book was published in 1993. Its message deafens today’s realities in all ways. The list is endless . . . the threats to our environment, the number of wildlife increasingly on the endangered list, dramatic shifts in climate variants, global warming, threatened ecosystems, land management unmanaged, availability and quality of water, air pollution and the overall quality of each life.
The book transcends time and space with simple-complex thoughts and feelings that can be understood by the youngest among us . . . with artistry that beckons the affective domain to feel the power of Mother Nature . . . to simply respect its wonders . . . to recognize the immensity of her presence . . . the magnitude of her vulnerability, as well as the need to defend, protect and validate her worth and truth.
A children’s book with the power of catharsis to empower the oldest among us who may have lost the capacity to view life through the pureness and precious innocence of children’s eyes.
A children’s book that teaches during late hours . . . opening eyes as they close for the night.
Ultimately, Schimmel leaves us with the same two tigers, a planet and earth. As Mother Earth asks for our love, she provides the greatest love of all . . . awareness, empowerment and advocacy to validate in our minds, hearts and spirit that each day is Earth Day.