I was navigating the choices of being grumpy or grateful when reflecting on WMG’s March 9 river cleanup day.
We were picking up a myriad of plastic, styrofoam, cloth, and other human-made items; whatever tossed off parts of consumerism that ended up in the Rillito’s riverbed. Pulling all of that human detritus from the homes of birds and lizards and hares and coyotes – not to mention spiders, butterflies, bees, snakes, and all of the other riparian critters and plants.
Trudging through the riverbed with the oh-so-heavy unearthed wet and muddy blankets and clothing, hacking away at dirt to pull out shopping carts, bringing picks and shovels to people so they could excavate tires, banners, tarps. Digging in the mud to pull out straws, candy wrappers and soda bottles; not to mention broken beer bottles and sharp glass and aluminum cans. Coming upon a homeless encampment, and an explosion of clean clothing and personal items that clearly were someone’s… (we respected their stuff and left it there.)
And I was in this state of bewildered wonderment, working to process all of this sensory input. A beautiful, lush riverbed marred by humanity’s afterthoughts, and all I could think was – what are our priorities as a species? As a society? As a community? And I would check my pessimism against the glorious blue sky, the chirping birds, and the people around me, picking up all of this garbage. And the people riding by on their bikes, or jogging, or walking – shouting out words of encouragement: “Thank you!” “We appreciate what you are doing!” “Great work!”
And having to put the phone camera on panorama mode in order to get all of the trash that was picked up, in one shot.
While I know that this effort is just one drop in the bucket, it makes a difference to the critters in the riverbed and along its banks. At least I hope so. In the meantime, I am choosing to be grateful for that day of hard work, and being fortunate enough to connect with a great community of people.