Snow has melted, fallen, and melted again — but winter’s debris is still there. I don’t mean the fallen leaves and broken twigs that litter the beds and lawn. I’m referring to actual litter.
Due to a combination of winter winds and my home’s location at the head of a T-shaped intersection, my yard is the final resting place for not only the leaves from the intersecting street, but also for my neighbors’ garbage. Whether it’s been set free from cans on garbage pick-up days or dropped on the street by passers-by, trash loves my yard.
Carried on currents of air, pieces of garbage eventually make their way into my garden, catching in shrubbery, landing among the leaves, mingling with branches. If I can’t get to litter removal because of too little time or too much inclement weather, my yard eventually looks like that house, the one that makes the neighbors cringe. After all, their yards are clean.
Before I can even think of raking and pruning and prepping the garden for spring, I must first put on a pair of latex gloves to pick up the the unwanted winter color. There are days when I feel less like a gardener and more like a member of an adopt-a-highway crew. (Note to self: ask a local business or organization if it would like to adopt my yard.)
As I go about my trash business, I find myself learning a lot about my neighbors. Most of them seem to have very bad eating habits. There’s always a fair share of fast food wrappers lying about, but this year in particular has been a banner year for butter consumption. I wish I could trace the origins of each piece of debris. Then I could knock on that neighbor’s door and remind them that they should adopt a more heart healthy diet. I’m just trying to be neighborly.
I realize that some garbage escapes from garbage cans or the back of a garbage truck on trash pick-up days. But with the amount of plastic trash bags available today, is there any real reason for fly-away trash? My local supermarket boasts a sizable selection. There are bags that tie, grip, stretch, and have a scent. It’s almost too many choices. One day, I found myself sniffing boxes of garbage bags as if they were fragrance samples. I wonder what scent my garbage would like . . . lemon? Clean linen? Lavender?
My bigger issue, however, is with people who intentionally drop their junk. These people used to be called litterbugs, but I now have a few other names for them — and one of them is “Tara.”
Tara was one of several young people in a car that drove by my house last summer — and she was the third person to toss out a bag of garbage in front of my house in as many days. After the bag hit the ground — and the car sped off — I opened it. There, among the candy wrappers, used cosmetic stuff, empty water bottle, and dirty napkins, was a receipt with Tara’s full name.
I figured that Tara was of the generation raised with the “it takes a village to raise a child” philosophy. The only problem is that we forgot to tell the child that he/she is part of the village, and as a citizen, he/she has a responsibility to the village.
In any event, I thought that receipt with the name on it was gold, and I envisioned myself driving to Tara’s house and returning her garbage to her. Unfortunately, it was too common a name and my Google search left me with the only thing I truly had: a bag of someone else’s garbage.
Littering is certainly one of my biggest pet peeves — and it’s all because of two childhood influences that have stayed with me through the decades: Iron Eyes Cody and Woodsy Owl. Iron Eyes starred in an early anti-litter commercial, the one where a tear rolls down the face of a Native American as he looks at the polluted landscape. I too feel like crying, especially on days when I’m in my car, stopped at an intersection. As I wait for the green light, I have several minutes to look — really look — at how un-green life has become.
Then there was Woodsy Owl with the catchphrase: “Give Hoot, Don’t Pollute.” I took that one to heart. To this day, I will hold on to a gum wrapper until I find a trash receptacle. Every little hoot helps, I figure.
I mention all of this because as we busy ourselves with purchasing energy efficient light bulbs, sorting our papers from our plastics, pushing “green” initiatives, and debating climate change — the planet, or at least my corner of it, seems dirtier. We seem to have forgotten the most basic, most simple thing to do to save the planet. Wherever I look, I see peoples’ garbage — clothing, furniture, used diapers, food containers, and so much more — in parking lots and parks, along streets and sidewalks, in my yard and flower beds.
Some days it makes me angry. Some days it makes me sad. Some days it makes me want to retreat into the serenity of my yard and lock out the outside world. But on days like this, when it’s time to clean, I see that the outside world has infiltrated my world — and I think to myself . . .
One man’s trash is not this man’s treasure.