28 5 / 2012
18 4 / 2012
08 4 / 2012
30 3 / 2012
You know how sometimes, when you’re having a feeling — say, anger — your consciousness seeks a target in the outside world on which to place that uncomfortable feeling?
My consciousness found its target this week.
After spending several hours last week picking up garbage in my neighbourhood, only to witness a new wave of debris floating in a day later, I was feeling raw.
So, one sunny morning earlier this week, when I spotted two guys dumping a TV into the back corner of the Price Chopper’s parking lot, I felt a rush of anger into my blood. I veered across the parking lot and approached the two guys.
"What you’re doing is immoral and wrong!" I said.
(I know. Can you believe me? This is not something I often see in myself, this ability to confront a stranger in a back alley. Actually, by walking up to these two nefarious characters, I belatedly realized that I’d put my safety at risk.)
My hand twitched on my phone, in my pocket, but I didn’t have the guts to take a picture. Instead, we shouted back and forth for a few seconds.
"Who do think is responsible for getting rid of your TV?" I said. "Take it to the Goodwill!"
"That’s where I got it," he said in a voice that reeked of smoke. "But it doesn’t work."
"Well, take it back where you got it!"
"What do you care?" he asked.
"It junks up my neighbourhood!" was my reply.
"Look at this!" he said, motioning toward the mess of junk — broken shopping carts, puddles of wet clothing, stacks of plastic buckets, discarded painting supplies — that already littered the parking lot.
By this time, I was retreating, walking away, afraid these 50-something white guys would come toward me, instead of slink back into the alleyway (mine!) from whence they came.
"You know what? Fuck you!" he said, sensing my fear. "Go and get yourself a job. Get yourself a job as a security guard!" he said, scuttling away.
As I walked home, I felt the bubbling up of rage. At first, I thought I was mad at that guy’s laziness and disrespect, but no.
Safely inside, I tuned in to news coverage of Ontario’s budgets. I did some angry housework while I listened, but before long, sitting to fold laundry, I had to consider the fact that the dumper guys were possibly living on welfare, with no family support, maybe struggling with addiction or chronic pain, or whatever.
So maybe I wasn’t mad at those two guys. Maybe I was pissed that some people can’t even afford a cab ride to the place where one would responsibly dispose of a non-working TV. I felt rage at televisions in general, and their inflated sense of importance in our culture.
For the rest of the day, I went on feeling angry and afraid. Meanwhile, dumper guy probably went and got himself a working TV. So my choice to let my anger get the best of me did nothing to change the world. It only made me feel crappy. After all, the TV is still sitting there. And I’m still sitting here.
I’m not going to take it to Goodwill myself. I respect myself too much to do that.
I think I may need to set some boundaries for my Trash Gordon activities. I can’t be loading TVs into my car and disposing of them responsibly on behalf of a corporation. That’s not sustainable behaviour.
But I still don’t like looking at trash on my street. I’m going to have to bump up my strategy for keeping my neighbourhood clean. A few phone calls are in order, I think.
And maybe some meditations on anger would be a good idea, too.
26 3 / 2012
Turns out cleaning up crap is more yoga than I thought.
Last week, I picked up a lot of garbage around our neighbourhood. It wasn’t fun. It was humbling, gross and … left me with a feeling of futility.
I abandoned the trash claw, though. It’s awkward. Instead, I’ve resorted to pink gardening gloves and the bend-and-stretch version of garbage gathering.
The experience brought up a lot of feelings.
At first, it seemed fun. I love my new gloves. Which helps, for whatever shallow reason.
Then, last week, my son and I spent the most awesome sunny day in our neighbourhood. He collected rocks and sticks in the cargo compartment of his trike, while I tagged along behind, wearing my Trash Gordon gloves and toting a garbage bag.
We mostly focused on our block, and collected a couple of bags on a grassy area alongside the Price Chopper’s parking lot, a plot which is chronically plagued by random waste matter.
Where to put my collection was a quandary.
I dumped some of it in Price Chopper’s garbage cans, though their small receptacles were already spilling over. (Which may have something to do with why their property is often messy.) The rest, I dumped into our own garbage can. But the practice of adopting my community’s unclaimed garbage as my own is not sustainable. Our can is finite; garbage is not.
I tried not to judge. I just decided that whomsoever threw that trash there, and whomsoever owns the property, I just don’t like looking at it, so I’m going to pick it up. Price Chopper employees on their breaks sort of, well, they sort of watched.
I tried not to feel angry at the corporation (Sobeys) that makes money from this neighbourhood but doesn’t bother to wash its hands before it greets its customers.
I tried to be compassionate toward the people who left their litter there. Maybe they were having a bad day. Maybe no one ever taught them not to litter, and maybe they grew up in a community so awash with waste that they came to see garbage as completely acceptable.
I was not completely successful. I felt anger, disgust, sadness and more anger.
But later that day, after I had cleared most of the garbage from the lawn, and swept the foul images of garbage from my mind, I really felt proud of myself. Walking down the clean street was just so pleasurable.
The real heartbreak came this morning, when I walked down Northcote, enjoying the sun and the birdsongs. The parking lot and patch of grass are a mess. Actually, now the site looks worse than it did before I applied my elbow grease.
My son hasn’t seen the junky jumble yet, but when he does, I know he’ll say: “Mom, where’s your garbage bag?” And though I feel great about setting an example of humility and community contribution, I can’t walk around dressed like Trash Gordon all the time. (Can I?)
I’m seriously asking myself if this project is worth it. Because, you know, it feels overwhelming. There is no end. There’s no feeling of lasting accomplishment. There is only the fleeting reward of having created order where there was once chaos. Until chaos rushes in again.
But. I’m going to keep at it, I’ve decided. Because trash picking is, like yoga, an act of devotion than expects nothing in return, no appreciation or notice. And I really like the idea of having a practice of humble devotion in my life. I know that’s good for my soul.
So, now that my intention is reset to picking up trash for my own personal development, I wonder if that will change the feelings I’m having in the moment of lifting a chicken carcass/motor oil can/muddy sock into my garbage bag.
18 3 / 2012
14 3 / 2012
Here’s another way to celebrate Toronto Fashion Week, Queen St. style. Watch livestreamed shows online while you get dressed to go somewhere else.
13 3 / 2012
13 3 / 2012
12 3 / 2012