Tonight, as is my custom, I went for an after-dinner walk in the park behind my house. Those of you who have walked the hill with me will recall the viewpoint closest to my place, just a few minutes into the park. It’s a rocky outcropping facing west, with a few farms in the foreground and a series of hills and mountains in the distance. One of my neighbours calls it “the watchtower” and it’s an apt name, since it’s a far-seeing kind of place. Tonight however, the wind was blowing in my face so I moved to the other side of the watchtower and as I was gazing into the trees, something white caught my attention, across the vale from where I sat. I mentally filed it away to check into later.
I went back down to the main trail and started removing one of the notices I’d put up about this morning’s successful broom pull. Of course success can be measured lots of ways and since I have sometimes been all alone on these kind of events, anytime I get more than one other volunteer I’m pleased. Today there were seven of us and we were able to pull out quite a lot of broom, some daphne and of course the blackberries got trimmed back. So by any measure it was a successful effort.
One of the regular dog walkers came by and stopped for a chat, talking about her dogs, the great wildflower season we’ve had and of course the nefarious scotch broom. I carried on, enjoying the evening amidst the trees while feathered arpeggios filled in the spaces between the branches. I took down and folded up a couple more notices, then went to the top of the hill. The view from there is stunning, it’s a big sky kind of place where anywhere in the world is just over the horizon. After drinking in my fill, I turned around and started for home, but remembered that I needed to check out the mysterious flashes of white I’d noticed earlier.
I clambered over to where I thought it should be and sure enough, as I hopped up a rocky ridge I quickly discovered the cause. A couple of three ring binders and some duo-tangs had been emptied out of a year’s worth of homework and tests, an ignorant display of childish rage against authority. I hummed a few bars of “School’s Out” and surveyed the damage. Pages were everywhere, scattered in the tall grass, stuck in the branches and roots of the gnarly oaks, and resting precariously on fernlaced rocky slopes. It was getting late and I thought about leaving it until tomorrow but quickly realized it would only get worse with each puff of wind. I set to work, corralling page after page of schoolwork and piling them up in a cleft in the rocks.
I admit to being more than a little angry – as I worked I cursed the ignorant miscreant who had caused the mess. But I tried to get out from under the anger, trying to imagine the terrible forces that might have driven someone to do this. Using my walking stick I was able to get nearly all of the papers gathered up. It was too much for me to carry, I realized. I also noticed some charred papers on the ground and thought about how easy it would be for some idiot to start a fire with this much paper around. I grumbled under my breath and set off for home to get a garbage bag. I was still carrying a lot of resentment and general pissed-offedness, but as I walked through the forest I realized that instead of being angry I should be happy. After all, I was able to take action to clean it up. If I hadn’t come along, I thought, this could have turned out a lot worse than it’s going to. So I slipped indoors, grabbed a garbage bag and went swiftly back into the park feeling a lot better than I had just a few minutes earlier when I’d been swearing a blue streak as I gathered up papers. By the time I got there the light was fading but it was good enough for my purpose. I filled the bag and then set off back home, reflecting on the motivations that spur us into action. Turning a negative into a positive was a compelling motive for me tonight.