Monday Morning Poem: Gathering Leaves in Grade School

by Judith Harris

They were smooth ovals,
and some the shade of potatoes—
some had been moth-eaten
or spotted, the maples
were starched, and crackled
like campfire.
We put them under tracing paper
and rubbed our crayons
over them, X-raying
the spread of their bones
and black, veined catacombs.
We colored them green and brown
and orange, and
cut them out along the edges,
labeling them deciduous
or evergreen.
All day, in the stuffy air of the classroom,
with its cockeyed globe,
and nautical maps of ocean floors,
I watched those leaves
lost in their own worlds
flap on the pins of the bulletin boards:
without branches or roots,
or even a sky to hold on to.

Poem copyright © 2007 by Judith Harris, whose most recent collection of poems is “The Bad Secret,” Louisiana State University Press, 2006. Reprinted from “The Literary Review,” Fall 2008, by permission of Judith Harris.

Watch This: American Experience: Earth Days

5.0 out of 5 stars Superabundance

Earth Days is a comprehensive history of the evolution of the environmental movement in America, told from the point of view of nine individuals who participated in the early stages and the inception of an annual Earth Day (1970). The documentary opens with compelling films, many taken from early TV commercials and news stories, illustrating how Americans became enamored with the automobile and with conspicuous consumption, the two forces that heavily contributed to the global environmental and energy crises. Former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall describes the uphill political struggle to convince presidents, congress, economists, and businessmen of the need to become more cognizant of the heavy toll taken by ordinary business beliefs and practices. Astronaut Rusty Schweickart describes the impact of the space program in building the understanding of humanity’s dependence upon a very beautiful but very damaged planet. Others, including Earth Day organizer Denis Hayes and biologist Paul Erlich, tell the story of grass roots efforts to convince the public of the reality of the peril in which they are living. This is a program that is both discouraging and hopeful. The failure of the United States to act upon incontrovertible evidence is examined, and it seems that the forces that obstructed the movement in the 20th century are very much in play today. “Superabundance” and over consumption are no longer an option. Director Robert Stone and his crew, along with the pioneers who spearheaded and brought this movement into common awareness and concern, have produced a visually irresistible film layered with images from which it is difficult to look away and with messages that are difficult to ignore.

Feature-length documentary film Earth Days will premiere on Facebook with a live video stream and a chat at 8 p.m. EST on April 11, more than a week before the over-the-air PBS television premiere at 9 p.m. EST on April 19.

Morning Walk: Autumn in Connecticut

Went for a walk down our country road this morning and for once, remembered to bring a camera. It’s still early autumn, the colors for which this region is famous are blossoming forth. There are nuts on the ground and seeds in the air. The weather is finally cooler, more in line with expectations for October, and now it feels like autumn, looks like autumn, and smells like autumn. Here’s a sampling of the lovely sights along my route today.