I was tired. My feet hurt, my shoulders ached, the skinless spot on my right foot was starting to sting again. My hands didn't want to carry the heavy bags anymore. Plus, I was cold.
I was also fed up with walking through brush that was cut too high, leaving stiff, scratchy willow and alder stumps between a foot and sixteen inches high. Stumps just waiting to trip me up, snag holes in the yellow bag I was carrying, and otherwise confound my efforts to pick up litter in the ditches through the small village of Moose Pass today.
Besides, I was still aching a bit from yesterday’s litter picking. I’ve been pushing myself a little too hard lately, trying to finish this area before I head north into the mountains where the walking is easier.
The wind has been blowing all week and the sun has been a no-show. I’ve been wearing a long-sleeved thermal shirt over my tee shirt, and a Carhartt jacket over that. Even the bright orange and yellow safety vest adds some protection from the wind. Then I wear a sweat band on my head, for its original purpose as well as to keep the tips of my ears warm.
Eventually, perspiration dampens the back of my tee shirt as I climb up and down steep ditches, dragging a bag quickly filling with beer bottles, plastic, aluminum, and paper, and I strip off a layer. Then I get chilled.
So that’s how things were going as I walked the bike path adjacent to the two lane highway through town this afternoon. Across the highway from me, two young boys were playing with their bikes in Clarence’s yard. Every dog in town was barking at me, making Clarence’s words hard to hear.
Finally, “We saw a rabbit!” came through loud and clear in the high-pitched voice of an excited young boy. Those long-eared snowshoe hares are everywhere this year, which probably explains the abundance of coyote sign and wolf tracks I’ve been seeing. The hares have lost almost all their winter white fur, and are now close to being totally gray.
Funny thing about hares—they always want to be on the opposite side of the road when they see you approaching. Moose seem to share the same instinct.
I trudged on another couple hundred yards, then came back on the opposite side, the side no almost no shoulder and lots of sharp, cut-off brush in the ditch. When I neared Clarence’s yard, he told me again about the rabbit. There was a plastic bag snagged in an alder bush at the edge of his yard, and I asked him to get it for me. He came back with the bag and a couple aluminum cans.
His young friend, a blondish boy about the same age whom I’ve never seen before, stopped his bike in front of me and said, “Thank you for what you’re doing. I love you.”
Suddenly, my feet stopped hurting. Suddenly I wasn’t chilled. Suddenly it was all worthwhile.