Earth Day, Every Day
I'm a month late on this post, but I've been thinking a lot about litter. When I think about litter, I think about my mom. Primarily because she trained me from a very early age to pick up litter around our neighborhood. I never thought of it as work or a chore or even as picking up litter, it was just part of our "silly walk." My mom made an adventure out of everything we did, a daily stroll around our neighborhood was not just a way to get exercise, it was a treasure hunt, an opportunity to find the craziest items and create stories of how they got there. The blue gym shorts, the one lone bedroom slipper, pages of a book, a fork and knife, a whoopie cushion, the list was endless. Not only could the neighborhood yield these mysterious treasures, but they created a platform for storytelling. How did that one slipper escape? Who was the owner of the whoopie cushion? Are the fork and knife searching for their sister spoon? These walks would mean hours of entertainment and imagination. Of course, we would be collecting these items in small bags we'd carry with us, but it never occurred to me we were picking up litter, beautifying our neighborhood and silently questioning the choices of our neighbors.
Both walking and picking up litter were so ingrained in me as a child, that it became a pattern I continued as I grew older. I was so trained to look down for "treasures" I was always able to find lost money, a stray car key, and infamously, my own dropped earring on a busy stretch of Michigan Ave. in Chicago. I also always prefer to explore on foot. Whenever I visit a new place, I would never think of traveling around via taxi or bus, when I could see everything so much better by walking.
Some days I feel like I could walk forever and never get tired. This is how I best know a place, feet on the pavement, in the woods or on a trail.
Whether my mom knew it or not, she was instilling in me a love for walking and conservation. I can't walk past litter and not pick it up, it's how I was raised. If I sometimes get to create a story in my head about the strange items I pick up, how they got there and who they belonged to, that's just a bonus. The best part though is thinking about my mom and the time we spent together walking around the neighborhood picking up trash, me thinking I was on the adventure of a lifetime every night.