“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said the Australian tourist recently at the
“I mean, dirty nappies and everything!” he continued.
He wasn’t talking about the astonishing scenery at this roadside lake, but the astonishing amount of litter at our feet. I picked up the “dirty nappies” and put them in a yellow litter bag I was filling.
“And everything,” I repeated. It took a moment for the full import of my words to register. If people knew what I routinely clean up at these waysides, they’d never get out of their vehicles, much less let the kids and dog out to burn off energy. Think outhouse al fresco.
I was embarrassed. Embarrassed for my neighborhood, for my state, for the tourist’s permanent impression of a littered
Nor was this accidental littering, when the wind snatches paper from your car and sends it skittering across the highway. No, this was premeditated littering, littering with intent, littering with malice aforethought.
How else to explain the six-pack of beer bottles under the wild rose brackens, or the fast food bag full of pop and beer cans carefully tied to a willow branch? And I’m sure the wind didn’t blow those beer bottles fifty yards onto the lake ice.
I’m frequently asked if I ever get discouraged, picking up continually replenished litter from
Last July I noticed a mega soda cup placed on the pavement beside a car. The driver moved the car over 20 feet and parked. I picked up the cup, walked over and asked if they’d forgotten it. Then I went kayaking on the lake for an hour, fully expecting the cup would be back on the pavement when I returned.
It was still there, but inside the vehicle, which they’d abandoned. It took several months before the appropriate agency could have it towed.
I filled three bags with litter, picking up everything but cigarette butts. The human life span is far too short to start that.
By the time the Australian man drove off towards Seward, I’d worked my way to the hedgerow of wild rose bushes. I smiled to myself, thinking about another reward. Later on this summer, when the roses are in full bloom, there will be pathways through the roses where people have carefully brushed them aside to relieve themselves at or into the lake with some rose-bush privacy.
They think the roses are their main foe here. They never notice the numerous stinging nettles that grow in their midst.
And that little reward pretty much tells you what I think of litterers.
(Note: this was written and the photos taken a couple weeks ago, Since then much of the lake ice has melted, and I've taken my kayak out to get litter from the lake bottom.)