~ ‘The Old Poets of China’, by Mary Oliver
~ ‘The Old Poets of China’, by Mary Oliver
Tell me the beautiful bits, things I might not see if I walked where you walk.
More than ever.
And through the eyes of each other.
Tell me about the litter you pick up or don’t pick up and about the bike you once found abandoned in the woods just there and how you wonder where abandoned bikes go… and why ducks’ feet don’t get cold.
How he appeared at the window one day when your cat was sitting on the sill and they both nearly scared each other to death and how neither of them have gone anywhere near that window since.
And the splash of red you see in a bush, which you assume is another Timmy’s cup and when you get closer you see that it’s not litter but a bird.
Tell me about the man doing tai chi in the park and how you’re grateful for all the goodness he’s putting into the air. And how in the very same park someone left a hoover and a giant bag of household garbage.
Tell me it’s to clear your mind, to remind yourself there’s more than madness in the world. Tell me it helps you see that despite all the anger, fear and hate, there’s no value in anger, fear or hate because that’s not how things work, that’s not the essence of what we are.
Despite all appearances, that’s not the essence of what we are.
Tell me you walk to refuel because refueling is necessary… because this isn’t a time for idleness.
Tell me you walk because there is so much beauty.
And so much work to do.
I’ve recently set out on a quest for trashy reading and have been happily led to what appears to be not only a most wonderful book on the subject of litter but to a whole line of (very smart) books being published by Smart Apple Media, primarily for schools as far as I can make out, but they’re such excellent things it would be a shame not to flaunt them more broadly.
Formatted as one of those hardcover, mini encyclopedia for kids, Why Shouldn’t I Drop Litter? opens with a colour photo of autumn leaves on the ground and the reminder that this, too, is called ‘litter’, leaf litter. The difference being that “Nature has ways of dealing with things that are no longer wanted…”
And with that perfectly passive aggressive irony, we enter the book by addressing a few facts about ourselves and how much we throw away every year (about five pounds per person EVERY DAY). That *you*, personally, don’t throw that much away doesn’t matter. It’s not a problem that’s searching for someone to blame. It’s a problem that requires everyone to take responsibility. At least everyone who lives on the planet.
The pages, 32 of them, are beautifully laid out and not crowded with information in the way this style of book can sometimes be. Nor is its intention to scold or even shock. Rather, it seems only to want to remind us of the consequences of litter, that something which seems so trivial and innocuous has all kinds of horrible consequences.
Hedgehogs, for example, tend to get stuck in yoghurt containers because their quills make it impossible to back out.
Used or tangled fishing lines are often cut and left in the water (because we’re such geniuses). And if you can’t understand how this is dangerous for birds, fish, turtles, dolphins, etc…. google fishing lines/wildlife sometime. Meanwhile, here’s a two minute story with a happy ending.
And those plastic holders that six-packs come in? If you haven’t yet heard, all kinds of birds and animals, fish too, get them wrapped around their beaks, bodies or necks and die that way. If you see one laying around, please pick it up. You may save a life, and you won’t die of cooties.
Oh, but if it’s germs you’re worried about, consider the gum that’s all over pavement everywhere. It costs between $2 and $3.50 PER PIECE to scrape off. Apparently no one has yet figured out a better way to remove it. Probably because all the money and brainpower is working on how to inhabit Mars (which will only remain gum free until we get there).
One of the biggest problems in the matter of waste is that which comes from fast food restaurants. Our convenience is apparently nature’s problem. It’s no small potatoes what we choose to support with our dollars. When we give all the money and power to fast food places we shouldn’t be asking ourselves why standards are slipping everywhere we look.
(Of note: interesting how people will throw money at the burger joint that happily pollutes the world for profit, but the same person resents paying a few extra bucks to keep a community well supplied with garbage cans.)
The problem is always us.
The solutions too.
It’s about the choices we make.
Anyway, the book is part of Smart Apple Media’s ‘One Small Step’ imprint, which seems designed to inspire engagement in our individual slivers of the world, to encourage us to understand that problems like litter are not someone else’s problem, but something we can work together to improve.
I think it would make dandy reading for families that give a hoot.
Also, if you come across books that deal effectively with the subject of litter, garbage, recycling, you get the idea… please let me know. I’m compiling a list for The Litter I See Project.
A million thanks.
Cosy on my couch with tea this morning.
And then the sky does something impossible to ignore.
So I walk to the ravine at the end of my street
and stand behind a juniper tree above the creek, and listen
to the silence of morning before birds, of nothing but moving water
and think how lucky to be in a place where silence calls you out to play.
How very very lucky indeed.
Happy new year, friends…
Here’s to a little more peace and kindness for all.
“There is always an element of sadness in celebration. We cannot celebrate without alluding to it, because there are people on this earth of ours who are not celebrating, who are despairing, anguished, starving and mourning. That is why all celebration should end with a silence in which we remember… all those who cannot celebrate…” ~ Jean Vanier
It hasn’t been perfect, true.
Whatever perfect is.
There have been sunsets.
There have been creampuffs (and the cages are rattling for more). There has been candlelight and firelight and tea on the patio and music and words spoken and read and thought. There have been ideas realized and hands held, rides on strong broad shoulders, and monkeys. Yes, there have been monkeys!
There was the ocean and the star that night and there have been birds and a fox, several rabbits, deer leaping over a fence, too many squirrels to count and their nests impossibly high and visible only when the leaves fall. There was a crop of garlic and green bean salad and all those fat, happy worms.
There was snow and there were snow angels and invitations and real mail in real mailboxes.
There was rain and the lake with its waves and tides and beach glass. There were stones.
*And now there are pomegranates to remind me of what is not nothing.
With thanks to everyone who was part of the everything this year.
Everything that was. And is.
The light and love of the season to you all (laughter and pizza implied).
See you in the new year.
Have spent much of the last month on beautiful beaches that aren’t mine.
Mountain ringed BC lakes like mirrors and, most recently, those endless and magnificent PEI ones made of solitude, red sand, stone cliffs, cormorants and washed up lobster traps.
Now I’m back home.
And where I live the beach has no red sand and the cliffs are more cute than seriously cliffy. Sometimes there’s solitude, sometimes dogs chasing sticks in the surf, families and picnics and the smacking lips of lovers, people who have happily found another who likes ‘long walks on the beach at sunset’. The cormorants are sea gulls and hang around the chip truck. Beach litter runs more to Timmy cups than lobster traps.
Do I look like I care?
Saw a monarch that was caught in the splash of a wave, one wing pinned under a tiny pebble. I saw it as I walked past looking for beach glass, assumed it was dead but reached down anyway and moved the pebble… and the wings fluttered. I let it climb onto my hand and it stayed there drying in the sun until a group of young girls noticed and squealed about a butterfly on that lady’s hand!! and came running over to touch it. Better not to, I told them. It’s already had enough excitement and has to fly to Mexico when it catches its breath. They were that age where their eyes go all bright when you tell them about insects and Mexico and as their hands went down to their sides I saw that they suddenly wanted less to touch it then than to hope for its safe journey.
The winged thing climbed up my arm as I continued along the beach and I worried it would fall off and be trampled on the sand before it dried, so decided to introduce it to a stand of milkweed where it happily fluttered off my sleeve and onto a nearby shrub to check its GPS.