Saturday, May 30, 2009

CLEAN-UP DAY

I’ve never understood why people litter. When my father gave me my first car—an army-green 1956 VW Beetle—one of the things I did right away was hang a little canvas trash bag below the dash. On the rare occasion when a passenger tossed, say, a candy wrapper out the window, I immediately braked, pulled onto the shoulder, walked back and retrieved the bit of paper—and placed it in my litter bag. I never said anything to the offender. But the lesson worked…at least when they rode in my Bug and subsequent vehicles. Afield, I’ve always practiced a similar approach. If a companion—young or old—throws something down, I wordlessly pick it up and stick it in my coat or vest pocket or tackle bag. Along a stream—fishing, canoeing, just poking about—I try and carry a disposable cigarette lighter which I use to burn those wads of discarded monofilament line careless anglers regularly discard. This is more than a dislike of litter, however. I can’t tell you the number of birds and small animals I’ve rescued after they’ve become entangled in this old line snarls—everything from muskrats to groundhogs, kingfishers to great blue herons. Old fishing line is a frequent deathtrap for wildlife. Sure, anyone who fishes suffers the occasional line tangle. And often the only way to put yourself back in business is to yank off the snarl and start fresh. Yet it only takes a moment to hold a lighter flame to the wadded mono and turn the dangerous mess into a harmless lump of plastic ash. Living beside a river is sometimes like living beside a refuse bin. I often think half the people using the stream leave evidence of their passing behind—empty soda cans and drink bottles, bait cartons, sandwich wrappers, even articles of clothing. And when high water comes, mixed in with the down-washing mass of logs and leaves and natural debris is everything from old tires to barbecue grills, plastic buckets, toys of all sorts and sizes, garbage bags stuffed with who-knows-what, pieces of junk cars, and discarded furniture. You name it, and at one time or another it has floated past the cottage…even if you’d have sworn such stuff can’t float. Not that any stream should ever be treated with such disrespect and abuse—but it’s particularly odious when the river in question was one of the first chosen for “State Scenic Rivers” status—a listing based on its clean water and singular beauty. To me, such places are almost holy. I would no more litter a stream or woodland trail than I would a church or my mother’s grave. It’s is a matter of both reverence and honor. Littering is a form of contempt, an absence of conscience. And perhaps even an inadvertent insight into the psychic and physical sanitation of the individual—for I always equate a lack of cleanliness with those treat their waste so cavalierly. People who are nasty in their daily lives are nasty in their body and soul, is my way of thinking.
Yesterday morning, for the eighth year in a row, a group of volunteers did what they could to rectify the situation, giving the river its annual clean-up. Armed with gloves, trash bags, strong backs, and youthful energy, they came floating downstream in red canoes, putting in every so often to go along the banks and pick up the collection of litter and loose manmade clutter. Sometimes good stewardship means becoming the other fellow’s de facto trash man. If I’d have known about the event, I would have joined them. As it is, all I can do is express my gratitude to them for the willingness to spend their time sweating, tugging, picking up and carting away in their canoes the garbage and junk which would otherwise sully the stream’s pristine beauty. To one and all—your hard work was genuinely appreciated. From the bottom of my heart, and the hearts of all of who live along, regularly visit, and unabashedly love the river's sycamore-lined banks, emerald pools, and minnow-quickened shallows THANK YOU!

13 comments:

KGMom said...

One of my pet peeves, for sure.
I wrote a blog (a long time back) ranting about why people do dumb things--and public discarding of trash is near the top of the list. I witnessed a young woman spit a wad og gooey chewing gum right in front of me and with a few feet of trash bin, and called her out on it. I handed her a kleenex and said--pick it up.
I also rant from time to time about the use of water as a trash receptacle. I was horrified to learn of a HUGE plastic waste zone swirling in the Pacific Ocean all because humans foul their nest.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

Amen to that!

It's beyond me why some hairy-chested he-man types are able to carry a 12-ounce soda into the woods, and can't carry the 1-ounce empty can out!

When I see people littering—out in the woods, on a city street, wherever—I think Vlad the Impaler had it right. I want to yank 'em up by the short hairs, duct tape 'em to a tree, and stuff a few styrofoam cups down their throats.

What race of fools fouls their own streets and yards and parks?

Oh, yeah…littering gets me cranked.

gleaner said...

Another person here disturbed by the ease and disregard others have towards the earth and nature.

I've just finished making more calico bags to add to my growing supply of bags that have replaced plastic shopping bags. It really disturbs me when I see birdlife choking on plastic bags. Although I am also disturbed with the plethora of chemicals people use and let run down their drains into waterways (vinegar and sodium bicarbonate is the only cleaning agent I use).

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gleaner…

I use a lot of natural cleaners, too. Vinegar beats any commercial glass cleaner I've ever tried, and I learned this from my mother who learned it from her mother.

I haven't yet switched to homemade or store-bought bags, mainly because I tend to shop for lots of things at once; a dozen or more sacks of stuff per visit is about average. I may, though. And I reuse my plastic bags and give them to a day-old bread store which makes do on bags customers bring in.

Bernie said...

You have a beautiful soul and spirit my friend, it shows through with your respect of everything near and dear to you. Those who clutter their homes, their communities or wherever they are have souls that are cluttered, they are not as blessed as those who know to do something about it.......:-) Bernie

Jayne said...

Like you, I have an almost visceral response to seeing trash discarded improperly. It was pounded into me as a child that we NEVER, EVER litter. It is a matter of respect to me. When I see someone casually toss something out their window, it makes me ill. And, to see these things end up in our beautiful waterways is even more disturbing. It's so great that so many communities now have "river rescue" days of trash/litter pick-up.

Arija said...

People are so thoughtless and badly brought up. It also reflects in the absence of politeness and manners.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

In the interest of honesty, I must confess that my work room (the second largest room in the cottage) is eternally cluttered—not littered, mind you—but piled with books and manuscripts and photos; the desktop, shelves and tiny closet overflow because I simply can't put it all away, though I keep trying. A matter of space rather than will.

That said, I do like order and a degree of neatness…and certainly I want things clean. I prefer a home that looks lived in and one which reflects the person within. When I go into someone's home, I hope to see something of them reflected in the spaces; homes should be personal, individual, even intimate.

Littering, on the other hand, is an attitude—a willingness to disrespect the land and water, the city streets, sidewalks, roads, the world we all live. It's saying, "I can trash this place because it is beneath me, and if you want it clean, you must clean it yourself because you, too, are beneath me." There's ego, disrespect, and a darkness of spirit involved.

If I let it…littering could enrage me. But I know, sadly, that humans are weak, often disgusting creatures. The good news is that some can be taught to think and act otherwise. In the meantime, those whose values aren't so skewed have to come along and clean up in their wake.…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

I feel the same way when I see littering…a sick anger.

I sure don't want to come across as holier-than-thou here, on these postings or comments, or anywhere in my life. I'm not, and don't think of myself as superior. I know myself pretty well, and I'm not even close to being holy.

But I can't even remember being taught to not littler—it was just an ingrained attitude and behavior. I didn't want to litter, ever. My land and home and life are important to me—they were as a child and they are now—and I had no notion of strewing them with my garbage. I never saw my parents litter, nor any of my close friends—so maybe that's mostly where it came from. But I don't understand, on a fundamental level, why anyone WANTS to litter.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Arija…

You are right, on all counts. People are thoughtless, ill-mannered, and badly brought up. They shouldn't have to be taught some of this stuff, but apparently they must.

To me littering seems a lack of social and moral conscience, a sickness within which manifests in outward acts. And I suspect much blame for this obvious lack of values begins at home…

Gail said...

Hey there Grizz-

I have a miserable cold - jeeze it's horrid. so I am low key, barely reading any blogs. resting and lots of juice and tea.

sigh...............

great photo and I feel like the rest of you - I run out my front door like a crazy person when i see anyone "messing" with the pond or the brook, by littering or whatever.

got to rest

love you'
gail

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Get some rest. Drink a tody or something. Eat chicken soup. Get well!

THAT'S AN ORDER!

Take care…another order.

Gail said...

"SIR, YES, SIR"!!!