A place worth loving
In walking the same routes over and over, I eventually came to notice some of the same pieces of trash resting in the same spots, undisturbed, for days and weeks on end. Eventually, it occurred to me that probably no one would be swinging by to pick that up, so I should do it myself.
Procurement of a litter-picking claw and some plastic bags later, I set out on my first litter-picking walk. Many snack wrappers, to-go containers, paper napkins, cigarette butts, disposable face masks, tiny liquor bottles, and plastic drinking straws later, I returned home feeling accomplished.
The litter-picking has been a regular feature of walks ever since.
Is it having an effect? I don’t know. There’s always litter again the next time I go out, but there is—there must be—less than there would have been. I filled that last bag up with something, after all.
The thing that would make this endeavor demoralizing, I think, is if it were coming from a place of anger toward people who litter. It’s not. It’s coming from a curious, even joyful place. It’s a way of showing some affection for my surroundings, of being here. It’s also a way of asking “If this stretch of sidewalk, bus stop, parking lot, etc., looked like a cared-for place, would anyone treat it better?” Will a lack of visible litter, or the occasional appearance of an odd man with a stick absorbed in the task of picking up what litter there is, serve as a deterrent to further littering?
The jury is still out. But the other day I stopped to pick something off the sidewalk as a young couple passed. A little farther on, they walked seven paces past a trash can, finished the last gulp of coffee from a to-go-cup, and then turned around and walked back to deposit the cup in the can. I’m not saying it had anything to do with me. But I’m not saying it didn’t, either.
Sugar, a hell of a drug
Circumstances in the household have had me cutting most added sugar and simple carbohydrates from my diet lately. (“Circumstances in the household” means “when other people are trying to eat less of this stuff, it seems dumb and self-defeating to be the person still sneaking it into the environment and hiding it under loose floorboards like contraband.”)
Along with 2-3 weeks of withdrawal headaches, predictable for someone already as headache-prone as I am, I also began experiencing some dizziness and motion sickness on walks. I didn’t immediately connect this to the dietary change, leaping instead to theories of vertigo or COVID or an inoperable brain tumor that would inevitably kill me. (Being inside my head is a real treat, I tell you.)
But then the headaches largely subsided, and I realized the dizziness and motion sickness while walking had, too. I haven’t experienced them in recent weeks. It seems my body has adapted to the new levels. The turbulent transition from the old levels makes me wonder what we’re doing to ourselves with all the sugar and white flour.
Merlin Bird ID
If you have a bit of spare space on your phone and a bit of curiosity about our feathery friends, I recommend grabbing the Merlin Bird ID app from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It has three ways to identify birds you encounter: by answering questions about their location and physical characteristics, by taking a photo, or by recording the sounds they were making (like Shazam for birds). My phone’s camera isn’t good enough to make the photo option useful, but I’ve had fun with the others. It turns out the bird I often hear screeching just after dark is a killdeer.
I have 32 sweet potato vines in the ground, which could net me either a handful of sweet potatoes or 64 pounds of sweet potatoes, depending on what the weather does. If it’s the latter, I’ll be the guy trying to pawn off loaves of sweet potato bread on everyone I know come Christmastime. Are you growing anything good this year?