Though I wrote this piece more than ten years ago, today (as I was clearing out my hard drive) I found it – and it resonated still.
So, in the spirit of my love for this planet – and in honor of the Harvest Moon, due this Wednesday night when I will be with Sarah Robinson at Creating Irresistible Presence and unable to post – I’m recycling it today – for you mothers, you fathers, you Earthlings.
Happy Harvest moon!
It’s 8:30 PM and I am standing on the porch holding another black plastic trash bag filled with things that I can neither re-use, re-cycle nor compost. I can see from here that this bag of garbage won’t fit in the can that sits by the curb, already too full of the unwanted stuff of the past week.
Our porch overflows with discards: that old chest of drawers; the bike, grown rusty and way too small; two old tires and a sack of rusting batteries and five cartons stacked in a disorderly heap, jammed with paper
We are filling three trash cans a week with things which – I keep sorting through it – should be re-usable. Couldn’t we use this broken toy for something? Why can’t I recycle this shoe?
Why, even after the paper and plastic and metal have been sorted out, the junk mail stacked and bound with twine, the vegetable peelings and chicken bones thrown on the compost heap, is there still so much trash?
My husband is a master of repurpose-ing. “Anything can be used for something else,” my he says, transforming those drawers into toy boxes, a tire into a swing, a four-foot length of unused sewer pipe into a crawl-through tunnel for the kids’ playhouse.
Old toys have been donated, furniture sold at yard sales. We dug the other tire into the garden and filled it with flowers. But the trash keeps coming.
And every now and then, when I am proudly dragging a can of # 1 and #2 plastics to the curb I sigh.
Every day, every trash can at every fast-food restaurant around the world, is filling with more paper and plastic than my family can produce in a week!
Does it really make a difference if I carefully press this aluminum foil flat for another trip in a lunch box?
When rain forests keep falling, does it matter if I rinse and re-use this zip loc bag?
As I follow news reports of de-forestation, of wetlands glutted with “landfill”, when my water turns to clumps of black soot in my teapot, when my government votes against my planet, it would be so easy to just give up.
… to toss it all (like a few of my neighbors still do) into one big can, … to say, “I’m buying that Cup O Noodles in the Styrofoam container and try to stop me!”
But I can’t. It’s too late. I’m green.
We’re all green – all of us born close to the earth.
Oh, some of us may have forgotten, tossing beer cans and plastic wrappers out of car windows. But even they can’t escape it: They’re green.
My son and daughter can hardly wait to get outdoors, to get fresh air in their lungs, dirt on their knees, to see what nature has cooked up overnight.
“Hooray, we’re saving trees!” they sing, laughing and dancing around our compost heap.
They really do.They lift that joy-dance right from the soil. The soil through which we pulled our hoe this summer and built our bean house, the soil through which the green shoots emerged and grew, spiraling up, climbing the branches that we set, teepee-style, over the seeds. The soil from which we now harvest runner beans and peas.
The soil through which they dig with bare hands looking for worms, looking for wonders, looking for China.
It’s for them that I spend two hours in the grocery store, where I used to spend one. For their health, I check our fruit for irradiation, scrub off pesticides and wax; check our milk for BGH and penicillin; and, because I don’t want them to lose their sense of wonder, I show them the ‘dolphin safe’ label on the tuna I buy.
It’s for them – and for their children… and for me.
Because I can’t imagine a world without forests and pine needles crunching beneath my feet. I can’t imagine a world without apple pies fresh from the oven served with untainted milk.
I want my grandchildren and my great-great-grandchildren to know the wonder of diving into an ocean wave, of plucking the first tomato from the vine, of surveying the world from the strong wide limb of a tree.
And though being green, we will also make compromises:
– You can’t always find organic cheese at midnight.
– Sometimes you find yourself at a barbecue with Styrofoam cups.
– Sometimes you can’t find the thermos and you send a juice box to school.
Still, every action I take – to recycle, reuse, read labels (and newspapers so I know what’s going on) – makes a difference.
It’s evening. Standing on the porch, I look up at the sky.
The moon hangs plump, scattering light across the lawn. The stars, pinpricks of white against velvet blue. Suddenly I am filled with a feeling I can only explain as “Thank you.”
A ‘thank you’ that whispers itself through me like wind.
“Thank you,” I say, and the sound of my own voice in the still night sends a chill through me.
“Thank you,” I say again, like a prayer.
Thank you for damp soil against the soles of my feet, for sunflowers, for wind. Thank you for rainbows, for birdsong, for sand. Thank you for apples, tomatoes and corn. Thank you for holding me. Thank you. Amen
On my way inside, I turn off the porch light to save electricity and I close the drapes to keep the heat. I see a piece of paper in the regular trash and bend to pull it out, shake it off and drop it in the recycling bin where it belongs.