Saturday, May 9, 2015


#1 tossed trash

Dearest Readers,

Last Saturday morning I volunteered to pick up litter along a two-lane paved road that runs through Peacham, Vermont, called the Bayley-Hazen road, originally a military highway built up to the Canadian border during the American Revolution.
Etta and my Green-Up, clean-up route

It was Green Up Day in the state. My dog Etta James and I walked 1-1/2 miles along one shoulder and returned to my parked car along the opposite side for another mile and a half. We probably walked five miles altogether. Most of the junk tossed from cars had landed off the shoulder and came to rest in fields and down slight embankments. So I scurried down, then plodded back up, again and again. Etta was sick of it after a half-mile, and pulled back constantly. Mistake to have taken her.

I did not take pictures because my hands were gloved and covered in stinky stuff. I had a trash bag in one hand and Etta's leash in the other. So, I’ve created a gallery of drawings of the top ten most popular object-projectiles.

         1.   Number one is Bud Light in mangled cans…far and away the top tossed trash. (See above)

         2.  Number two is Bud Light in bottles. I learned to empty all liquid to lighten the load. 

           3.  Number three is an assortment of water and soda bottles.

                4.    Battered paper coffee cups and steamrollered plastic lids

         5.   Round chewing tobacco tins, often flattened and resting with or without their lids.

             6.     Number six is the little white plastic mouth-pieces from some sort of small cigar or cigarette. Cigarette butts were everywhere too, but after a while my back refused to bend down to retrieve them.

          7.    Number seven goes to Marlboro cigarette boxes.

           8.  Eight is crumpled paper napkins melting back to bleached cellulose.

          9.   Zip-Lock baggies filled with anonymous rotting food or mysterious substances. You do not want to unzip them!

           10.   Crumpled paper plates with grease stains from pizza or something else.

I was surprised to find only a few chips bags, but I encountered 
One wild windshield wiper, 
A partially buried shirt, 
A plastic tarp in a heap, 
A rusting space heater that I could not pick up, and 
A dog skull and bones. Poor thing landed in some bushes down an embankment. I left his remains in peace.

All this got me thinking and questioning,  “Who is lobbing this stuff into the landscape and why are we so addicted? The litter is mostly the packaging around our cravings for sweets, caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine–the containers for ingestibles.

An Atlanta artist and friend, Susie Winton makes art from small things that are thrown out, overlooked or not considered important. See her artwork here. Susie says, “I use common materials and the found object to refocus, to better see the world around me and the life I live”.  I see her work as also being about the experience of aging. Susie is like an urban archaeologist, finding traces of life in the detritus that gets left behind.

Green up Day is like that too. More than a good deed to beautify the scenery, picking up waste is a study in what is both important and not important in the culture at large, and how we view our place on the land.