Jim Amidon — Marc Hudson has a voice like a summer wind. Not a breeze, but a warm, strong, and sometimes gusty wind. In Chapel Thursday, his voice moved from whispery softness when describing emerging spring ephemerals to gale force when quoting the poetry of Ezra Pound.
When he finished his Chapel Talk previewing Earth Day and honoring Wabash’s naturalists, I sat for a moment wondering how much I’d pay just to hear him read the newspaper — strong, vibrant gusts of headlines and the steady breeze of the body copy.
An English professor and the College’s resident poet, Hudson spoke of place. “A few years ago, Helen and I decided that this place — Crawfordsville — is the place we will live out the remainder of our lives.” At the heart of this place, he said, is the Chapel.
His take on Earth Day was amazingly hopeful and upbeat. Instead of lecturing on and on about emissions, carbon footprints, and the harm we do the Earth every day, Hudson honored the College’s past and looked to the future with hope and promise.
Hudson had fond memories of his former colleague, Robert Petty, who taught biology, but was easily as well known as a poet and naturalist. “His poetry grew from this local soil,” Hudson recalled.
“Earth Day is a celebration of the health of our planet and its biodiversity,” Hudson said, noting that we can begin that celebration by simply paying attention the natural beauty around us. He spoke of the Petty Patch in the Fuller Arboretum, the spot that honors Bob Petty’s love for and knowledge of all things natural.
“As we approach Earth Day, we must understand that human action can have an important impact,” said Hudson. As an example, he pointed out the important and groundbreaking work of Biology Professor David Krohne, who has co-founded the NICHES land trust, which today protects 21 natural places comprising more than 2,000 acres.
Student Nathan Rutz, he said, and the group Students for Sustainability, did a great service by bringing attention to and helping our community understand the brutal impact of mountain top removal in the Appalachia mining industry.
“I’m also mindful of the good work of Bon Appetit for purchasing food locally,” Hudson said, noting the food service company’s commitment to local providers. He also said he believes plans are in the works for a meatless Earth Day as a way to bring attention to the disproportionately high resources it takes to get meat to market.
“So eat your sprouts and be merry,” he quipped.
“We do have a green tradition here at Wabash College. But as I look around at other liberal arts colleges, I realize that we can perhaps do things differently, do things better,” Hudson said. He discussed Colorado College’s recent audit of energy consumption and emissions, along with St. Olaf College’s wind turbine that now provides one-third of the institution’s electricity.
Hudson also told the story of poet Ezra Pound, whom he described as “a difficult poet” and a “difficult and angry man.” Hudson said that while Pound was held in prison for treason near Pisa, he produced some of his strongest poems. “They register a kind of pathos and humility that is rare in Pound’s work… In these poems, Pound becomes a naturalist; he looks closely at the natural world.”
“Learn of the green world and know thy place,” Hudson said forcefully — like a gale — quoting Pound.
“We have to take a new path — we have to — but we can be hopeful as we do it,” said Hudson about becoming a greener society. He suggested to the students, faculty, and staff in attendance that they celebrate Earth Day by taking a hike in Shades State Park or Pine Hills Nature Preserve or even a stroll through the arboretum.
“What ever you decide to do on Earth Day, just pause for a moment… and be hopeful.”
Professor Hudson’s breath-of-fresh-air take on Earth Day and the College’s role in being good stewards of the environment concluded with a lovely quote from Thoreau:
“Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”