Catron County, New Mexico has about 400 miles of paved road, and we're planning to walk every mile of it ... eventually ...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Talking Trash

I haven't been able to access the comments feature at Walking Fort Bragg to tell Ron how awesome I think his latest photo series is - definitely go there and check it out! I just hope Ron didn't take those wave pictures from the jetty - apparently the beach isn't safe right now for the kiddos and the old geezers and geezerettes. From what I understand, our Ron falls into at least two of those three categories...

Reading Ron's post about Glass Beach, and a few things here and there at other walking blogs, has got me to thinking about garbage. I read an excellent book a decade or so ago about the settling of the American West - wish I could remember the name or the author - which somewhat dispelled my romantic "Little House on the Prairie" inspired notions about the early settlers by talking about the big trash heaps they left behind their little log cabins. Apparently, they ate a lot of canned goods. And Johnny Appleseed? According to Michael Pollan, Johnny wasn't some handsome young fellow who walked across America eating apples and spitting their seeds over his shoulder, as Walt Disney et al would have you believe - he was a rather creepy old religious nut who maybe married a twelve year old girl and sold apple trees to settlers crossing the Ohio River. The settlers bought them for the cider, which when fermented represented one of their few reliable sources of alcohol.

Anyway, not to get too far off the point here, I was talking about trash. If you live in the city, you put your trash out on the street and a truck comes by and takes it away. If you live out in the country, it's a different story. Here, the county provides a few dumpsters scattered around, and there's a landfill or two, but mostly your garbage is your own problem. Lots of people burn their garbage. Quite a few dig a hole with a back hoe and toss their garbage into it until it's full, cover it with dirt, dig another huge hole, etc. For larger items, many of us have a junk pile somewhere on the property. It's a form of recycling, since when you need a piece of lumber or a piece of PVC pipe or some wire, you go rummage around the junkpile for it. But it also represents something else, which I'll try to explain.

Let's say you have a car which doesn't run anymore. You hang onto it - it might still be good for parts. After a while, the weeds grow up around it, the weather turns it a nice rusty color, the cattle graze around it, the mice and the ground squirrels set up housekeeping in it, and it becomes part of the landscape. It's not hurting anything. You could have it towed or hauled off somewhere a hundred miles away and sold for scrap, but it would cost you more in time and effort and gas than you'd make on the metal. You'd lose money - and why? It's not hurting anything.

This is why you come on these things out here that almost look like sculptures - artifacts of a different era, worn down by weather and time into abstract art pieces. An abandoned wagon, an old truck from the forties, a car from the fifties. Often on our walks we pick up pottery shards from 800 years ago, and a few steps later, pottery shards from fifty years ago. We admire the 800 year old pieces, and discard the 50 year old pieces without a second look. In a hundred years, we'll appreciate them.


  • At 11:15 AM, Blogger Blabberon said…

    I don't know why you can't make comments on my blog, other folks like Spike and Jen get through.

    Your musing on ancient and recent pottery chards is right on!

    And thanks for the reference to:

    The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World

    I'm going to check the library.

  • At 1:18 AM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    Sometimes I can comment and sometimes I can't - I don't know if there may still be some bugs in the new version of Blogger, or if it's just my ISP flaking out somewhere along the way, or what.

    Micahel Pollan is excellent - hope you find the book. I'll send you my copy, if you can't - you can send it back whenever.


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