Bernie (www.litterwithastorytotell.blogspot.com) suggested I pick up some litter and write an essay on how I feel about it. Reflecting on the idea I realized this would be no mere story, but an admission of my deepest rooted feelings.
My mom lives nearby. Her neighbor, Raj, is building a new home next door where a small bungalow used to stand. I dubbed the new structure his Raj Mahal.
Construction sites are well-documented litter offenders, always showing up on the list of top eight causes of litter. Against this backdrop I visit my elderly mother’s pastoral home. And on this day, as on many others, I am greeted by sightings of coffee cups, lids, empty creamers, polystyrene, some of it disintegrating into miniscule beads to confound even the nimblest of fingers. I found plastic construction material packaging, soggy paper napkins, newspaper and more food-related wrappings. Cellophane also reared its transparent head. Rubber bands, plastic and wire made guest appearances.
I feel wonderfully warm about nestling this waste in a secure bag. I feel nurturing. I have given this litter a proper home and resting place. My mother’s heritage property is for now restored to its erstwhile nature-respecting grandeur. My bagged litter and I revel in this moment together knowing it is fleeting because, astonishingly, people keep littering. They are planet bullies. What does it take to place a waste bin on site and tell your workers to use it?
My mother is a lifelong environmentalist. At 88, her awareness has slipped. She isn’t able to police a neighbor who’s his own contractor and a messy one at that.
While I feel happy to clear up the litter, I know my childhood memories are responsible for that. My mom used to send me out as a kid spring and fall to do a quick tidy-up and beautify her acre of green.
But today my fond memory bubble is being usurped by a creeping feeling of irritation and indignation about the people who create this mess, an abject disappointment in these humans, so-called “fellow men”. Like any close relationship, litter can bring out the best and worst in me.
Years on, when I finally look back on my career of educating about litter, I don’t want to see that litter was there with me through thick and thin. I want littering to be taboo in my lifetime so I can finally kiss everyone’s litter goodbye.