Last Monday, Pastor Walter Mitty and his neighbor Michael decided that the first stop on their morning walk would be the Retro.
“I wonder what color Zaphne’s hair will be today?” Michael wondered as the two friends turned the corner onto Main St. “Maybe green for Earth Day.”
“I’m going to guess half green and half blue,” Mitty replied. “You know, earth and sky.”
As they entered the store, the pair was greeted by a huge Aldo Leopold display: twenty copies of A Sand County Almanac, T-shirts with a cartoon of Leopold saying “save the planet,” and Mothers’ Day cards costing $20, $18 of which would go to the Morton Arboretum to plant trees.
“You like the display?” Michael and Walt were so engrossed in checking out the display that didn’t notice Zaphne’s approach.
“Um. . .ah. . .sure,” Mitty mumbled. The Retro’s owner was dressed in a peasant top, a short jeans skirt and flip flops.”
“B-blonde,” Michael stuttered.
“Say again.” Zaphne enjoyed the effect she had on the pair who were twice her age.
“You dyed your hair blonde,” said Michael completing the sentence.
“You two sweethearts won’t believe this,” she said, “but this is my natural shade. Decided to go natural for Earth Day.”
Turning to the display, she continued, “The cards are printed with soy ink on recycled paper in a LEED platinum certified building. Or, if you don’t want to buy a card, you both would like good in one of those T-shirts.”
“R-really,” Michael replied, “we just came to look.”
Pastor Walt’s face turned red as he realized that what his old friend had just exposed their true intentions for stopping by.
“Wow!” exclaimed Michael after the two had exited the Retro. “I do enjoy the natural look.”
“Where to next?” said Mitty, trying to play it cool.
“Let’s see what Bernie is up to,” answered Michael as they headed west on Main St.
When the pair arrived at History/Herstory, Pastor Walt stopped to admire the display of children’s books Bernie Rolvaag had created in the window: The Sun in Me, Earth Matters, I Can Save the Earth, Mama Mit and Save the Tree.
Bernie smiled as the pair entered his store.
“Really nice display in the window!” Mitty liked the idea of targeting children.
“Thanks, Walt. At first I felt like going for A Sand County Almanac emphasis, but Zaphne beat me to it, so I decided that after the flooding two weeks ago and the kids having school called off for a day, maybe I should try to get them reading about the environmental crisis.”
Mitty fell silent for most of the walk back home.
“Penny for your thoughts,” said Michael as they reached his neighbors front steps.
“I was just thinking, Michael. . . ,” Mitty paused to gather his thoughts, “I was just thinking about how my dad raised me and Herman.”
Having grown up in the big city, Michael liked hearing about small town life.
“My dad didn’t like camping or just hiking in the woods. He’d rather bowl a few lines indoors than sit and do nothing on a beach along Lake Michigan. But at the same time, he loved pheasant hunting. He and Herman and I would get up early on Saturday mornings in October, get our shotguns out of the gun closet and drive out in the country just north of Larry Bolen’s old riding academy.
“He loved being out in nature that way, and he belonged to what they called a conservation club. From the way he described it, most of what they did after the business meeting was over was drink beer and eat those sandwiches you make with raw ground beef and onions.”
“Yeah, that’s the name. But they were also responsible for partnering with the state to build a dam on the creek out by Collins and create a wetland area where thousands of water fowl now stop every spring and fall.”
“Sounds like he was pretty progressive.”
Mitty smiled. “My dad never thought of himself as a liberal. Voted Republican every time. Never heard the term environmentalist but in a way he was one.”
When his friend finished his story, Michael asked, “Did your father belong to the NRA?”
“No, but I sort of think he would be against control. . . .but then again I’m not sure.”
After saying goodbye, Pastor Walt went to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. As the aroma of a French roast Ethiopian blend began to fill the air, he felt a sudden longing to walk the trail along Molash Creek from the road to Point Beach out to the sand dunes where the creek emptied into Lake Michigan.
He didn’t feel the need to save the planet, much less argue about climate change. He just wanted to feel the sandy soil on the path and be alone with the only sounds coming from the wind in the budding trees and the sound of the waves on the beach.
He smiled again. “That’s more my mother’s influence than my dad’s.”