Not In Our Backyard

This post feels more like a personal journal entry, but if anything I hope it helps someone understand their emotions more intimately, and offers up a better way to deal with them.

In short, I received some upsetting news about a friend yesterday, and wanted to go as far from view as I could to deal with the accompanying emotions, which erupted powerfully as they often do. Moving through Haida Gwaii with an intensely sad or angry bubble around you can really affect the people you interact with. It’s harder to cover up or hide your personal truth within a crowd like you can, with ease, in a big city. In my own observations, and admittedly as an outsider, this kind of community deserves a balance of emotion and personal development from its people in order to keep the peace.

Consequently I left the populated area and went to Balance Rock. It’s a sacred place, understood by many both locally and around the world as a ‘power-spot’; a place of great spiritual and historical importance. As I tried to calm myself along the shores, there were some beautiful little shells and pieces of sea-glass strewn about by the receding tide. Their presence almost curled my lips into a smile, but then I stumbled across a half-dozen washed up telephone poles that stank of creosote, dripping their black ooze onto a beautiful beach. Rage.

Now my anger had a tangible direction.

I headed up the road to Jungle Beach with a plastic bag, intending to pick up as much garbage as it would take to redirect the anger and stop the shitty feels. The first item discovered – rather conveniently – was a large plastic fruit-crate. This was perfect. Now I had something with which to gather it all up.

Marching southwards down the beach I began to pick all of the out-of-place items wedged between driftwood logs, tossed up into the high tide line, and along the thick line of seaweed which divided the beach into upper, and lower. At first my pace was quick, footfalls heavy, and I was muttering in frustration to myself about the carelessness of others. As I trudged onward, the fruit-crate slowly growing heavier with the added weight of this random assortment of goods, I was reminded to breathe more deeply, to slow down and give myself the air and energy necessary to continue the venture.

In just over twenty minutes, my little shopping basket of unwanteds was full and I was approaching the emotional check-out. Here were all of the items collected, sorted by type…

Plastic is truly a magical thing. It comes in all different colours and textures, is ridiculously cheap, can be made into almost any shape, and it offers durability previously unheard of in man-made items.

But that’s just it – it is so durable. It does not biodegrade. It cannot be easily broken down.

So, why are we making such simple, everyday items out of plastic? Why are we not taking care to think about the lifespan of these items – of a fruit-crate! – apparently so cheap and easily produced that it can be forgotten and left to do anything but rot as it drifts through the ocean. We’ve all been aware of this for so long.

I am completely un-astonished that there are continent-sized areas of ocean where the top layer is made up of micro-disintegrated plastics.

Among some of the more curious items found were a tough plastic brush, used either for cleaning automotive chains or barbecues, and a golf ball. I wonder for how long they floated; the distance could be as infinitely large as it could be small.

Things began to look better. I had used my anger to do something productive, and have a good think about it at the same time. It’s hard to stay angry when you are on a beach like this, knowing that you’ve helped even the tiniest bit to keep it pristine.

Jungle Beach Collection

As I turned to put all of this stuff in the van and figure out where to dispose of it (PS, the majority of it is still in my van because where the hell do you put that much damn foam) a rainbow was bursting out of the sky ahead of me. A Haida Gwaiian classic. At this point, I burst into tears, but they surprised me as tears of joy.

Now, anger and sadness were appropriately vented, and I found myself looking upon the original issue with a remarkable clarity; a new perception of how to proceed.

I hope that you are able to do the same.

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