Monday, February 2, 2015

Submerged - Story of escaped litter

Story of escaped litter

Deep, deep down, below ice, snow, grimy road dust, dirt and debris, below leaf litter, dead sticks, wet compressed leaves, below frozen black mud, buried by seasons, left behind by generations, lay one piece of history.

The latest escape was easy. The blue floor had small holes-only not large enough to allow the one and a half inch figure through them. The blue vertical walls were much to slick to climb. Through luck or fate, the toy pony sat atop a pile of cans, bottles, plastic, and most importantly paper. Fortunately, for the seasoned traveler the blue recycling bin was open-uncovered. 

Maybe it was a passing car or simply just the right amount of natural twirling wind; either way unintended consequences lifted the paper and its plastic rider. The ride was brief, the fall abrupt, yet once again, the traveler, like the ancient bottled genie, disproved the affect of deterioration from time and age.

Suffering neither scratches nor breakage the traveler’s image changed only minutely, though it had outlived its first child owner. However, the Phthalates used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, durability and longevity) leached unseen, slowly, steadily, in stealth fashion, working their way to underground water,  eventually entering fish, mammals, and people.

Soon, a rainstorm carried the Trojan horse, along the blacktop road, following the curb, bumping into other littered debris, all coursing towards a heavy metal grate eventually dropping into another hideaway. Bobbing up and down, submerging under occasional waterfalls and passing through streaks of light, the plastic figure remained intact. Storm water carried the traveler forward under the streets to its next destination-Lake Champlain. Plastic long ago thrown away is never away for long.  

Months of floating, rolling on waves, moved the toy figure afar. Winter froze the pony in its aqua tracks in a clear temporary time capsule. Had an Ice fishing angler drilled a hole into the toy figure’s chalice, perhaps a record of the toy’s history would unfold.

Had a logbook accompanied the figure on its travels, many tales would stretch out- years floating in streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Timeless days buried in landfills, on sandy beaches, and in urban backyard sandboxes. Only a sliver of time in the logbook would account for time in use-with a child.

I spent countless hours imaging myself riding on my pony travelling with Indians. We traveled through deserts, along frozen lakes, followed deep dark forest trails, and galloped and splashed on hot sandy ocean beaches. My pony never tired, my long bleached blond hair now receded, trailed behind me. So many adventures my pony and I experienced. Little did I know- many more adventures awaited both of us long after we parted.

A scuba diver used a small brush to move sand away from the protruding submerged figure.
                          Photo taken @ Falls of the Ohio State Park by Albertus Gorman, and used here by permission.

 More telling than gold and silver doubloons among shipwrecks, this plastic toy along with millions of other plastic travelers will tell historians many stories.

Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told ~ Henry David Thoreau

Every piece of litter has a story to tell. 

Litter picking is at times interesting, exciting, and mysterious. Pick up a piece and let it tell you a story. 

Special Thanks goes to Jo Atherton of FlotsamWeaving for her inspiration from which I created this story. View her TEDxBedford  talk, which considers how flotsam in our seas serves as an unconscious archaeological record of our time. 

I also receive inspiration for litter picking from Suasco Al @ Trash Paddler’s Waterway Wanderings, Sharon @ The Museum ofLitter, Albertus @ Artist at Exit 0, and Danielle @ It StartsWith Me among others.

Discover the travels of a wandering kayak paddler who retrieves littered trash from rivers and streams.  Feel the sand under your feet with the beachcomber who collects and bottles flotsam found along the sandy surf.  Stroll along the Ohio River for strange birds and other creatures where the pony resides today.  Will the Flotsam Weaver someday come upon the toy pony and transform it into vibrant weaving's? What piece of litter will you find; what story will it tell you?

Public Opinion Study by OpinionWorks Inc.
From their report, "Why people litter in the Potomac Watershed".
"Media that is focused and has the right message can reach confirmed litterers and make an impact on them."
"Illustrating the path of a plastic bottle through the storm drain system out into the river—a connection none of them have ever made before— changed their thinking. A homemade Alice Ferguson Foundation video that followed a bottle from a K Street sidewalk to a trashy riverbank had a strong impact."

Bernie publishes essays and photos reflecting Vermont values of Green and Clean and Community. He urges us all to pick up litter and maintain a litter free environment through caring, community, and contribution in order to protect our water, wildlife, and human health.