My husband and I recently kayaked out to Long Island in Blue Hill Bay. This 4.7 mile long island is uninhabited by humans, and we had the beach to ourselves the night we spent there. After landing on the island, we decided to explore the interior. We found an old trail and several piles of moose poop reminded us that while there may have been no humans on the island, there were certainly large mammals! But moments later, we discovered the unfortunate evidence of humans – a beer can. I found myself feeling that not only was the landscape marred, our very trip was marred by this act of careless littering.
A few minutes later, my husband pointed out another beer can, and I felt my ire grow. Ten minutes later he noticed another. This time, I just asked him not to point them out. We didn’t have a trash bag with us, and I didn’t want to be ceaselessly reminded of humanity’s less thoughtful side.
But it became harder and harder to ignore them, especially the many that hung from tree branches. By then, we were both thinking of the Blair Witch Project and wondered what creeps had decided to turn these magnificent woods into a den of freaky, hanging beer cans.
Long into the hike, we took a side trail, although trail is a strong word for what was quite challenging to follow. The beer cans gave way to what at first seemed like graffiti on trees. The letters LA had been deeply etched into a big section of one tree, followed by several trees with vertical X’s. Were these marking a path? Seemingly so.
The next morning we decided to take a another hike, although we didn’t plan to return to the beer can trail, preferring to find some other areas to explore. And what we found was magnificent. Ancient oaks, once cut at the trunk had grown sprawling and enormous. Sweet huckleberries and blueberries still clung to their stems, providing breakfast. And within 5 minutes of each other, my husband and I both found deer antlers, mine shed within the year, his quite old and gnawed by rodents.
We realized that we were getting somewhat lost, and my husband’s iPhone with its GPS was just about out of batteries. We’d forgotten a compass, and the sky had clouded up, obscuring the sun, which would have enabled us to know what direction we were heading. So we did our best to navigate back a bit uneasily. And soon enough we found one of the trails. This time, however, the beer cans were strangely reassuring, marking the trail as they did.
I can’t say I came to like the beer cans, but I did appreciate them. Hanging from branches, they stood as beacons – albeit trash beacons – and I was glad not to be lost on this large island. When we return, I will be bringing a big trash bag to gather up the refuse, but it was strange how over the course of 24 hours my response to the beer cans could go from rage to relief.
Author of Most Good, Least Harm and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
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Filed under: Environmental Preservation, gratitude, nature, perspective | Tagged: environmental protection, hiking, irony, kayaking, littering, natural world, nature, perspective, trash, waste | Comments Off