Time for repair

This MLK Day afternoon, we pulled trash out of the Ellerbe Creek tributary running by the old YWCA near downtown Durham. It took us a while to pile out of the house and I was frazzled by the time we got into the car to drive there. This was Lanya’s idea and I was mostly just going along in the name of family time and doing service today because, well, that’s our family habit.

So much plastic. So much broken glass. But I worry most about the plastic. It breaks down into components that cause all kinds of trouble for anything alive. So much plastic.

After 10 minutes, I was feeling so glad to be there in nature. Yes, the power lines were running overhead to the nearby substation. Yes, there was trash — plastic bags trailing from branches left high on the banks by the last storm– and broken glass everywhere. Yes, there was a den clawed in the bank, obscured by a few roots. Yes, there were fat worms wriggling beneath a dislodged stone. Yes, there were raccoon tracks, revealing a local’s evening activities. This was shaping up to be a magical Day of Service. Thanks, Lanya.

It came as a revelation that I wasn’t doing this cleanup to tidy. This was an act to repair some of the damage humans have inflicted on the living Earth. Or an attempt, in any case. Getting plastics out of the environment — even on a very limited scale — is an act of repair.

But why wait until the plastic deli bags wind up in Ellerbe Creek? Why not stop their migration at the source. Why not quit buying or using plastic? Well, it seems REALLY difficult because so, so many products have plastic parts or packaging.

I’m really not sure of where to start with my plastic diet. Maybe something like a food log but for plastic. How much do I really use? How much do I use that is totally optional? Hopefully I’ll keep asking myself these questions.