Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tuesday, first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and we headed back into the woods of Prospect Park. The longest day.
I never sleep the night before these litter mobs. I don't know why. I now expect it, so perhaps it is self-fulfilling. Three hours, max. I am not nervous, I just don't sleep. Vince brings me coffee early, I am queasily awake. We walk to the subway, I am grumpy and tired. Once in the woods it is forgotten.
The beautiful stewartia flower are open. We looked at them near the Audubon Center beside the pea-green lake upon which two swans and five fluffy cygnets sailed, pursued sluggishly by a box of pink gum. A turtle was laying her eggs in the grass. I had never seen such a thing. We met up with our Natural Resources crew minders and Inge, a new volunteer. Later I fished another newcomer, Danielle, out from where she was a bit lost. I should lay a trail of crumbs. Just four of us today.
The brush we had dragged around the ancient tulips trees had stayed put. This is where the ground is badly compacted, with no chance of plant survival. Not too many new condoms or fresh trash, there. But up on the ridge towards Rick's Place - a steep warren of interwoven paths and meeting logs (my term) - the litter was prolific. Bottles, condom wrappers, condoms, plastic, lube, cups, candy, the works. Behind a well-used log I found a beautiful cluster of young chicken-of the-woods mushrooms. A great delicacy, but they stayed put. Because the worst or most troubling is not really the used condoms. I am used to them now. It is the soiled tissue paper, newspaper, the piles of human ordure at the base of logs, that hijack you as you walk by and swipe them into your bag. This worries me. We wear gloves, we have grabbers and bags, but you brush sweat off your face, or hair from the eyes, scratch an itch. I think we are hyper-aware of touching our own bodies with our hands, now, but it happens. As one polite young man put it, as we chatted about all the other people (it's always other people) who make a mess in these woods, "There is also much sickness here."
Ja well no fine.
I STILL like the woods. I see beauty every time. I see them as they should be. A quiet place of refuge and green. But I am beginning to feel like a sucker. Money is apparently poured into an amenity like a new skating rink while the real park disintegrates and is patched up piecemeal...And I ponder taking pride in one's work, and work ethics. Park employees working ten feet away from a pile of trash ignored it and drove away. Not their job? Unions? Self respect seems deeply attached to the issue of litter.
The photos above: The crucifix was the strangest thing we found, with seashells and glass beads. Part of a Santeria ceremony, perhaps. We put them carefully back. We did see an imposing woman emerge from these woods some weeks back and very priestess-like she looked, too.
So how about it, Commisioner Jeffrey? You said that you were going to tackle litter in the parks during your watch. And Mr Garner and Ms Lloyd of the Prospect Park Alliance? Prospect Park is your flagship. Its website invites children to experience nature, along with a nice picture of the log paths where we collect condoms. I invite you to tackle it with us in two weeks time, on the 5th of July. Right after a long weekend. Should be groovy.