Friday, September 22, 2006

Coastal Cleanup's Rewards

Awhile ago, I got volunteer happy. One of the things I agreed to do was participate in Coastal Cleanup, a global Ocean Conservancy event. While I wasn't particularly excited about the idea of picking up trash, I am personally bothered by trash and figured if I wasn't willing to do it, who would?

My trash picking-up resentment has ties to my past. In junior high school, on occasion, my friends and I would act up and have tiny little food fights at the outdoor picnic tables. One time, when I thought I was especially cool, I said, "Watch. I'm going to hit Mr. Daniel's with a grape." (Mr. Daniels was our vice principal and the unfortunate man responsible for keeping us in-line during lunch.)

I never meant to actually hit him with a grape but in a show of silliness, threw one towards him. My aim is so bad that I actually hit him. Of course, everyone at our table burst out laughing, except me. I was the obvious guilty party. (Note: The irony that part of my current job is supervising kids during lunch isn't lost on me.)

As punishment, a couple of times, I was required to pick up trash in the lunch area. Yuck. But the punishment worked. I hated having to pick up trash in front of my classmates.

And really, I wasn't much more excited about doing it now but it seemed like a right thing to do so I said I'd do it. Happily, Cameron and Sam agreed to join me. One of Sam's new friends from school, Jarred and his family were going to meet us there too.

So after a nice breakfast of whole-wheat blueberry pancakes, we walked down our hill, across a fairly busy street, along a quieter one for awhile then arrived at Blackie's Pasture, the Coastal Cleanup location closest to home. Cam's brother, Eric said they held Coastal Cleanup projects on Lake Michigan in Chicago. I know events were held at waterways around the country.

Since we'd played and picnicked in this park previously and planned to return many times, making it cleaner for us and safer for the sea birds that feed there was motivating. Cam just posted on his blog about a hike he took there and the birds he saw this morning.

We didn't take pictures of ourselves sitting on the ground and climbing on rocks to pick up numerous, tiny pieces of trash. It was weird, at first glance, there didn't appear to be any real amount of trash but upon closer inspection, there were little pieces of crap everywhere, hiding in the grass and the cracks between rocks. I think the thing I picked up most of all was styrofoam. Broken up bits of styrofoam, must come in with the tide, get situated, decide they like it here and plan never to leave. Both Cam and I picked up zillions of pieces of styrofoam. We also found bottles, food wrappers, and a couple of tennis balls, a roll of blue tape, ribbon, dental floss and lots of other crap.

Sam's friend came with his younger brother and their father. We met some friends of theirs that day too. At some point, the boys became more interested in throwing rocks than picking up garbage. I made a deal with Sam that he could throw one rock for every 10 pieces of trash he picked up.

After about an hour of decent work, Sam's friend was done and invited Sam to join him on the rope swing. We didn't know anything about a rope swing at Blackie's Pasture and figured we'd better go check it out.

It was hiding in some trees on the top of a hill that didn't look easy to climb. It wasn't but we made it to the top.

Sam got several good swings in with the other boys that day, and then we decided to go back as a family one night this week. Cam had worked from home that day so we didn't have to wait for him to come home on the bus. He was free at 5 and Sam finished his homework early that evening. This, combined with the lovely weather seemed like cause for a celebration.

It was lovely at the bay. I enjoyed watching Sam and Cam walk together and talk. When Sam decided to take a break from swinging, I took a turn. Then, Cam swang a bit too.

We climbed to the top of the hill and enjoyed the view of the bay.

We are fortunate to have such a beautiful place so easily accessible to us and were happy to make it a little bit better.

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