Garbage

It was last year at school.  I was talking to some Grade 5 students, kids I didn’t really know because I worked with the Grade 6’s.  I told them that I often walk down the main street in my village of Belmont to have breakfast at the Diner.  And there’s just so much garbage on the lawns, sidewalks and gutters.  I felt like taking a plastic bag with me and picking up the litter.

Two boys – “Trevor” and “Jeremy” – challenged me to do it.  I said I would, and I followed through – twice.  Then I convinced myself to forget all about it.  I’d occasionally remember over the next several months, but I never again pulled a bag out of the closet.

That was last year.  This spring I’ve been consistently unconscious about the whole thing, until last weekend, when I was sorting through reams of paper that had accumulated.  I came upon a grocery receipt.  On the back, in my handwriting, were three words: garbage, Trevor, Jeremy.

I gulped.  I had forgotten that they were the two kids who challenged me.  On Tuesday, I approached them and fessed up to my lack of commitment.  They nodded.  I said that I’d be walking down Main Street to the Diner on Thursday morning and promised that, unlike my history, I would do what I said I would do.

Thursday morning was this morning.  Two plastic bags found their way into my coat pocket and I set off.  I was scared, which made no sense.  I figured out that I was worried about what people would think, seeing me stooped over on their lawn.  I said that I’d have mitts on because of the cold, and it would be too awkward to pick things up.  Then I agreed to do it, but set a limit – max of 50 items each way.  And what was that about?

I shook my head at the foibles that were issuing forth and walked down Robin Ridge Drive towards Main Street.  Paper, plastic bottles, plastic wrap, plastic ties, cardboard and shingles all found their way to the bottom of the bag.  I got emotionally stronger as each item descended, and by the time I was approaching the restaurant I didn’t give a hoot about what anybody thought.  Hey, for all I know, there were folks applauding from their cars.

A garbage can stood serenely outside of the Diner.  Forty-two pieces of society, and one torn plastic bag, were deposited by a Belmont resident.  I smiled.

On the way home, the other side of the street beckoned.  I picked up fifty-nine examples of flotsam and jetsam by the time I reached my porch.

How silly to be so worried.  How happy to be so contributing.  And tomorrow morning I’ll hold up a sign to Jeremy and Trevor which will simply say … 101.  Good for me.

Just So

Yesterday morning, I had just assisted Jody with personal care and had moved to our bedroom to give her some privacy.  I sat in a rotating chair and looked at my bureau.  The bottom drawer wasn’t closed  completely.  About an inch of the top surface of the drawer was showing.

I was torn.  The part of me that wants everything in its place started contracting.  A less developed section of Bruceness didn’t really care.  But I could feel the tug of the words “totally” rather than “partially”, and of “flush” rather than “offset”.  My goodness, what’s the big deal?  Aren’t there more crucial life issues that need to be addressed?  Well … yes, but something was pulling me in to its domain.  I sure wanted to close that drawer!

Larger principles beckon me, ones that present themselves symbolically to me in the objects of daily living.  Doing a job completely, for instance, before moving on.

Then there’s horizontal and vertical.  In our hallway, Jody and I have put together a collection of small framed photographs on a wall.  One montage of our vacations sits right next to a light switch, and sometimes it gets jostled.  So the others are all at right angles but holiday pics are leaning just a bit, far less than that tower in Italy.  Still though, it’s not right, says a certain version of my mind.  Down deep somewhere is the appreciation of the vertical as representing an upright life, and the horizontal as seeing all beings as equally wondrous in God’s eyes.

Dish towels need to hang loosely from the oven door handle, falling uncreased towards the mystery below.  Being bunched and jumbled somehow interrupts the grace of the infinite.  Toilet paper falls down over the front of the roll, revealing transparency, rather than descending from behind, and thus keeping hidden and unacceptable some part of its being.

“Bruce, you’re nuts.  Make sure nobody ever finds out about your questionable analogies, and the fetishes that unfold from each.”

“Shhh.”

It’s time for another great life experiment.  Let the tea towels bunch.  Let the montage lean a mite.  Let that bottom drawer show all the glory of its top edge.  Don’t fix things.  Everything’s perfect as it is.  Next week, I can always return to the appropriateness of feng shui principles.  And then return to mild disorder the week after that.

After all, as Walt Whitman said, “I am inconsistent.  I contain multitudes.”