Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day, Arbor Day, Greenery Day

As if on cue, the rain stopped, the air got warmer and the Sun emerged from its undisclosed location. Spring is back after getting mugged for a few days by rearguard elements of Winter.

After whatever Earth Day inculcation kindergarten class offered to Ann this morning, she came out of school in a mood to pick up trash on the way home. In the park next to the school, that meant depositing a few items in brown trash barrels. Along the path toward home, where there are no barrels, that meant giving bits of trash to Dad for him to carry home to add to the solid-waste stream. "If we don't pick up the trash, the Earth will get tired," she said.

When I was her age, Earth Day hadn't been invented yet. I can't say that I remember the first one in 1970, being not quite nine at the time, though I remember very well the Apollo 13 drama, which happened the week before. In later years, I vaguely remember hearing about the occasion. But there was no pedagogues pushing the idea, no Google to change its logo for the day and not much merchandising of the day, not even by Disney.

Arbor Day must be jealous. Can't say that I paid much attention to Arbor Day growing up, either, being unaware that it's the last Friday of April in Texas. It's also the last Friday in April in Illinois, which is this Friday. To celebrate, crews from the village came to my neighborhood today and cut down a tree across the street from my next-door neighbor, which mostly involved a man in a bright yellow cherry-picker cutting with a power saw and two guys feeding the ever-larger cut pieces into a Morbark wood chipper, the kind of evil-sounding device that Bond villains probably feed their enemies to. Maybe not that evil, but it sure was noisy. Even retreating to the deck on the other side of the house for a little while didn't help me get away from the noise.

Japan has an Arbor Day of sorts: Greenery Day, one of a string of holidays that make up Golden Week. Greenery Day, however, was a late invention. Before his return to the realm of the kami, the Emperor Shōwa's birthday -- April 29 -- was a holiday. After he died in 1989, the holiday was retained but called "Greenery Day."

When I lived there I saw it on calendars but otherwise never heard much about it, except that it was the first day of Golden Week. Lately, I understand, Greenery Day has been moved to May 4, which used to be a nonspecific ponte holiday between May 3 (Constitution Memorial Day, honoring the MacArthur document, not the Prussian-flavored Meiji constitution) and May 5 (Children's Day, formerly Boys' Day). April 29 is now Shōwa Day, but it still kicks off Golden Week -- a bad time to travel in Japan, which becomes something like spring break in Disneyworld in terms of crowding.

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