Gustafson: “Celebrate Earth Day everyday”

Britta Gustafson
Then Again

Some moments are so simple and beautiful that they grow in our hearts to become the symbol that summarizes an important chapter of life.

For me, the bliss of childhood was summarized the moment I saw my daughter’s eyes widen with wonder, watching the dandelion seeds she had just freed as they danced off on the wind. She skipped and whirled around the grassy hillside as they encircled her like little fairies. And I can still hear her joy-filled laughter, the sounds of pure imagination, born from the delight of seeing each little parachute twirl off on the breeze as she frolicked along. Even at the age of 2, my daughter already knew she was a part of the wonders of nature, and she treasured setting it in motion.

At that moment I remember thinking to myself, true, with a little effort one could count the number of seeds a flower contains, but only the future will reveal how many flowers one single seed will produce. I was not wishing for a garden full of dandelions that day, but aspiring to nourish the soils of her childhood in which the seeds of future hope would grow, and to keep that bliss alive; something I still wish for, every day.

To foster a sense of passion and love for our planet is a wish I have for everyone. And for children in particular, who will grow up with ecological literacy if the soil they are raised in is filled with experience, love and good examples. So as spring sprouts forth new life and germinates our souls, this is the perfect time to scatter the seeds of hope and enhance our connections with our environment.

“Celebrate morning… Celebrate living… Celebrate evening… Celebrate Earth Day every day,” John Denver once sang. The synergy he felt and radiated while living in this valley expanded beyond his own lifetime, and from his love for this land grew many great things.

And if you haven’t experienced it yet for yourself, make a point to visit Aspen TREE (Together Regenerating the Environment through Education), at their Farm Park at Cozy Point Ranch this Earth Day, or any day. Amid the brilliant scenery, be inspired, as John Denver once was, when he pioneered Earth Keepers, now kept alive by the collaborative efforts of Eden Vardy and River Morgan and the rest of the team at Aspen TREE.

Watching my children explore their gardens, tasting the edible landscape within the biodome, connecting with the baby animals, and really experiencing first-hand where our food comes from, I can truly see their environmental knowledge taking root.

Well-known locally for their Farm-to-Table Free Community Meal that takes place before Thanksgiving, and for their resident alpacas Kona and Roy at the Aspen Saturday Market, Aspen TREE also offers so much more.

In 2010 they inherited Earth Keepers, a youth empowerment program based in farmyard experiences and nature connections, which was originally developed by John Denver and Tom Crum as part of the Windstar Foundation. This one-of-a-kind program was set in motion during the 1970s as a way to get kids outside and inspire them to care for their world through hands-on learning in natural sciences, land-based skills, innovation in environmental design and technology, and general Earth stewardship.

In the early years, John Denver’s guest teachers included Buckminster Fuller, leaders of Native American tribes, and other renowned environment leaders. Buckminster Fuller designed a biodome that became part of the program headquarters, a modern version of which headquarters Earth Keepers today.

The Farm Park is open daily for public use, and this Sunday, April 24 they invite the community to join them in celebrating Earth Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Come meet and cuddle the new baby animals, enjoy a children’s yoga class, create fairy homes and other Earth Day crafts, and most importantly discover this unique and inspirational public space for yourself.

With his chin resting on the ground, I watch my son bring a worm out from the churned soil, and as his eyes grow huge watching it squiggle through his dirt-covered hands, I can feel his excitement. He jumps up barefooted, and runs across the yard, welcoming me to join him in his newly unearthed bliss. I slow down everything to watch these moments and try to live vicariously through my own children’s sense of wonder, and I pine for those moments of absolute connection to the Earth that seem to come so naturally during childhood.

And though in adulthood we often need a holiday to remind us to be grateful, I will try my best to take a hint from John Denver, and this year celebrate Earth Day every day.

It’s easy to do when watching children, as they are born naturalists. They experience their surroundings in moment-to-moment sensory bursts: tasting, touching and absorbing the world around them. It’s up to us to nourish their instincts to love and share. After all, at the season’s end, success would be measured best, not by an abundant harvest, but by the seeds sown so far and deep that they will return to multiply year after year.

Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at


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