Litter. I have a feeling I’ve been infected…
Updated: Aug 23, 2019
Like everyone, there are many activities I do on a daily basis. Some of these are pleasant like taking a walk around the garden to see what’s growing and get inspiration for the coming year, and some are not so exciting like feeding the nine demanding cats, cleaning up and so on. However, one of the daily tasks I enjoy very much is taking Luca for his walk in the woods.
Let me start by explaining that Luca is a very strong and pully dog. He’s huge and loves going for a walk possibly more than anything else, so when he sees me putting on my shoes and going to collect his lead from the store room off the kitchen, he’s already gearing up for the mad dash out the gate, across the parking area in front of the flats behind the house and off into the woods. I must also mention that although Luca is the sweetest dog in the world (I know! Everyone says that about their own dogs) and he’s great with friends and family, I keep him on a lead when taking him out as he seems to have taken a dislike to a couple of other dogs in the village.
I love the area in which we live, and I wake up every day feeling thankful to be so close to such beautiful nature. It’s a rural place and is a good mix of farmers, locals, out-of-towners, and a few holiday homes as well. The closest mountain, Sedlo, rises above the local towns and villages and is surrounded by forests and meadows and sits under a tall and expressive sky. It’s the perfect place for hiking.
Yesterday’s walk with Lu was like any other, but I’d waited until the afternoon and as I was approaching the woods, I saw one of my fellow villagers coming around the corner with a pushchair and her adorable and very jolly looking children. Luca was not interested in standing around talking, but I said hello and had a little chit chat while being dragged off by Lu toward the road leading to the forest, and that’s when I saw it. There in her hand was a large plastic bag filled with litter!
Every day I walk in those woods and collect a whole host of things ranging from lichen to hazel canes, and I always see plastic bottles, bags caught in bushes, pieces of polystyrene and brightly coloured sweet wrappers nestling in the thickets… and it saddens me… and I do nothing.
The mental process is basically this: This is terrible, who would throw litter in the woods? I should be picking this up. I don’t have time. Why isn’t anyone picking it up? Why should I do it when no one else is? Something should be done about it. This is not my problem.
A million things were going through my head as I was dragged down the road towards the woods by an ever-enthusiastic Lu, but one thing really stuck: this plastic is never going to go away by itself, at least not in my lifetime, and it is my problem!
None of the other stuff matters. Who cares who dropped it and who’s responsible? Once you start going down that route you just get angry, and the forest will still be peppered with plastic. My neighbour and her children were right. We just need to pick it up!
This is when I have to say that this village is not a bad or dirty place. We’re lucky here. There are not many people just traveling through and the ones who do are pretty responsible. We have a yearly village clean-up day when everyone chips in giving the village a thorough spring clean and it’s made even nicer as there are beers all round and soft drinks for the children. As I take out my rubbish to the local recycling bins, I always pick up stray papers as I’m sure most people do. But it’s just not enough.
This morning when I woke up at 5:30 thinking about my neighbour Jirina who grew up, lived and retired in this house that I now call home. Every year after the snows have melted, she takes her two dogs and a wheelbarrow and cleans along the road which leads to the next town. This problem is never going to be resolved by only one person, it needs to be a collective.
I put on my boots, got Luca ready, and took one of my Super Strong Bags made from leftovers and decided to put it to good use! We did our normal walk, no less no more but managed to fill the bag with a delightful mix of junk! It was almost all plastic and included an orange stiletto, some beer bottles and endless plastic drinks bottles. We dropped them off on our way back to the house at the recycling bins separating the plastic from the glass.
I can honestly say I felt no negativity whatsoever. It was fun I guess, especially for Luca who loves pushing his snoz into the undergrowth. And then it dawned on me: I’d been infected! Not by the litter or anything negative, but by the positive actions of the people around me who just want to make this village and the world a better place. And for this I’m very grateful.