Garbage has been coming up from the ground ever since we got here. It just sort of appears, rising out of the dirt. One day you suddenly see the bill of an old ball cap, or a bail of a bucket. We find the strangest things. So far the most useful has been an old (true rubber) rubber ball, with a root growing straight through it. The dog loves it, root and all.
The chickens help, scratching around like accidental archeologists. I’m convinced though, that garbage finds its way out somehow, although by logic it should get buried in the sediment of leaf litter becoming dirt, and so on and on. More is appearing all the time.
I feel like I’ve been cleaning up plastic and glass for a year. Plastic and broken glass. Plastic and broken glass. I’ve spent hours and hours picking it out of the dirt, and I could spend days and days. I try to just tell myself that every session of glass collection is good and useful, although no, it may never be done. It’s all over, one of the most insidious types of garbage around. Plastic is dead useful, I get it. I use a lot of it. But left alone, it crumbles to flakes and mixes itself into the soil. The chickens will helpfully eat it (Colourful!), just like styrofoam, which swiftly finds its way to its component spheres, a real chicken favorite (crunchy! Yum).
We just un-constructed a partially underground structure that was built at some point by previous occupants of this land. It relied heavily on plastic to keep it dry inside, but funny thing, nature reclaims any unmaintained works of man pretty darn quick. After the wood frame collapsed… it was all over. The hill slid and buried things, water and air started to dismantle the molecules of all metals, and life moved back in.
The tarps were waving and tangled streamers of plastic threads with the white paint flaking off. Former pillows were a heap of mouldy foam chunks, the fabric long ago disintegrated. Plastic used to line the structure was alternately intact if buried in the heavy clay earth, and millions of flakes that crumble at touch if not buried. Possibly a mattress: foam intact, nylon weft of surrounding fabric intact, warp completely disappeared.
In other words, a mountain of trash. New trees shooting up through the whole mess. Garbage is quite interesting, in a certain way. Especially the “what the heck was that?” A feather pillow? Not to be believed. Cool old bottles are nice to find, if they are whole. Usually not. There are a few locations of old car bits and pieces on our property. I was cleaning up broken tempered glass for some time before I identified the weird rawhide-like stuff that was there with all the glass.
It’s the plastic that is sandwiched between the two layers of glass that make up a windshield. Yep.
Garbage. We spend a pile of effort extricating these things we do “not want” on our land from the dirt, load them into the trailer, and haul them to the “dump”, a quite wonderful meticulously sorted “waste management facility”. While we are there we are tragically overwhelmed by the quantity of stuff in the world that is being disposed of, and also usually find some other people’s trash to bring home with us because it’s so great.
I’m fully aware the whole time that this is merely shuffling a problem from one place (our place), to another place, quite nearby. Sometimes other people bring their garbage to where we live and dump it in the woods or on the side of the road (this seems to be a sort of cultural habit in Nova Scotia, unfortunately, with old cars and household trash). Our collective garbage will be moved from the waste management facility to another location to be incinerated or otherwise managed.
It’s almost absurd. All this movement of “trash” is just to satisfy an illusion- that there is a more “appropriate” place for this stuff to be. There is no “away”. There is no disposal. Things have been brought into existence on the earth – chemical compounds that do not naturally un-compound, some that are very difficult to destroy and damaging while they exist (say, radioactive waste).
In our backyard, as I endlessly bag up broken glass, the only thing I find comforting is the really, really, long view. In the short view, the leaves fall year after year and build soil over all the assorted scattered trash, but much of it will continue to exist there, waiting for the many heaves of the earth to expose it and bury it, expose and bury it, until eventually, this part of the surface of the earth will be swallowed into the furnace of the planet’s core, truly be dissolved into component elements, and finally transformed. After the passage of enough time, every place on this earth that we have littered will pass through mountaintop and ocean floor and fold into the superhot belly of the planet. That’s all that will fix some of this mess. But at least, it’s comforting to imagine. After we are gone, eventually, the earth has a way to clean itself up.