First I repatriated some rocks and shells back to the sea, and then I sat on a log and quietly watched the world go by.
After a while I focused my attention to the sand beneath my feet. I started poking through rocks to see what beach treasures I might find. On one side of my log, I placed interesting pebbles to admire. To the other side, I placed pieces of broken plastic and garbage.
I’ve noticed over the years an increasing amount of garbage washing up on our shores. On this particular beach, many pieces of waste are small, sharp edged bits of hard plastic. I often worry about the safety of children with their curious hands and feet, or of puppies and their paws.
I also think about the general impression this sight may have on visitors to my hometown, when they come to enjoy the seaside and find the tides have left the shoreline littered. Never mind the party garbage brought in and left behind by nighttime revelers.
Suddenly, I remembered I had a plastic bag in my pocket leftover from repatriating the shells. I started to fill the bag with plastic bits and other garbage. I cleaned up the space around my log on the beach. Of course, it was not enough to make a huge difference, but I left the beach in better condition than when I found it.
This is something I used to do naturally as a child – pick up litter from the sidewalk or park whenever I played outside. But ocean waste is one of those gigantic, complex problems that feels beyond one’s control. And somewhere along the way, in my long life’s journey through different busy phases of adulthood, I personally stopped picking up street litter. Most times I would just feel sad or disappointed in other people for not taking strides to the garbage can, and passing their responsibility along to someone else.
What happened to the little girl who used to accept that extra responsibility?
Now I am not normally one for making new year’s resolutions, but today I decided that I will always pack an extra bag in my pocket, so that whenever I come down to the shore, I can remove some of these small hazards from the beach. And leave it just a little bit cleaner.
If reading this inspires you to take up a similar practice, that would be wonderful. Our efforts would be shared and doubled! But I am really not trying to start a movement with this post, or look for any ‘that a girl’ praise. I am simply remembering the child I once was, and aspiring to live up to her example.
This is a personal decision and agreement between me and the beach.