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This morning, the wind blew a large plastic bag across the sidewalk. It fluttered like a butterfly in front of me and my dogs and then skittered away. Last summer I would have grabbed it, but 2010 has brought new insights.
Once I regularly picked up broken glass, fast food containers and empty liquor bottles. I thought it was sacrilegious to our beautiful natural environment for people to throw trash. But as the snow melts, uncovering glass shards, styrofoam cups and snack bags, I have to guess people like it this way. I’m trying to see the beauty others must see when a snagged plastic bag blows in the wind. I’ve learned that kids who throw candy wrappers on the ground are simply expressing their youth, much as the carload of teenage boys last summer who threw cans out the window as they passed me on my bike – barely missing me, by the way, but kids must always be excused. It’s OK for picnickers to leave their empty containers where they fall. After all, who wants to take that stuff home? And what is more natural than those nocturnal couples who leave used condoms, bottles and cigarette butts in green spaces. Besides, no one wants to defile their cars; cars are used to spew litter, not collect it. So the classic “trash blown from the back of a pick-up” is OK, too.
Tolkien’s evil Orcs left garbage in their wake. We do that too – except human trash isn’t seen as bad. People complain about dog waste (people should pick up after their dogs), some about horse waste, even some about waste from the encroaching wildlife that plagues us – but not about people waste. There is a lot of litter around, and most people don’t seem to notice it. It must just be me.
Many issues have a higher priority for folks than litter, like budgets, deficits and land use. I once believed that a community’s cleanliness, or lack thereof, reflected on its people and their subsequent decisions on the priority issues. But I must be wrong.
So as the snow melts and the prolific litter emerges and grows, I’ll try to enjoy it and consider it as a community work of art.