Trash talk

IMG_7955WHOOSH, ANOTHER WEEK HAS PASSED, and we’re settling comfortably into the mode of not knowing what day it is, and not really caring much.

It’s a sunny Sunday in paradise, the olive-sided flycatchers are incessantly calling for their “Quick Three Beers,” and I’ve retreated to the top of our rocky knoll to what was formerly daughter Lillian’s “Wendy House” (aka playhouse, a la the British allusion to “Peter Pan”). It has now become my writing studio — though I think “writing hut” is more like it. It came as a kit, designed as a cedar-sided potting shed, about 6 feet square plus a front porch. It’s a cozy place to write.

My topic for today is garbage.

How much garbage a society generates tells you a lot about that society, whether you’re looking at things from under an archaeologist’s pith helmet or wearing the backward baseball cap of a modern-day solid-waste wrangler (i.e., garbage man). How they dispose of that garbage — burn it? bury it? dump it in the sea and hope it washes up on someone else’s beach? — tells you a lot about a society as well.

Trash disposal is a challenge on our island. We could set our trash can — if we had one — out by the curb — if we had one — and it would sit there a long time. In fact, the trash would sit there until we finally decided to actually get rid of it, because ain’t nobody coming to haul it away in a big truck. Like all the best wilderness camping destinations, Center Island is strictly a “pack it in, pack it out” kind of place.

Our options are limited. When Barbara took the Paraclete water taxi to the mainland last week for her monthly checkup in Seattle, she took along two big totes of recycling and one of trash. I kind of left it up to her as to where she got rid of things. (Not along a roadside, I’ll say that much, but you won’t get any more details out of me, copper.)

Starting next week, we will take trash on our boat to Lopez Island, where there is a holistically managed, volunteer-run community transfer station and recycling center. The recycling disposal is free (if sorted and clean) and trash disposal costs $8 per 32-gallon can. (I’m thinking I might volunteer there myself, though I’ll be torn between the pith helmet and the backward cap.)

For residents of this island with no stores, one of our biggest boons when it comes to shopping is Amazon. For residents of this island with no waste disposal, one of our biggest curses is Amazon — and all the packaging, plastic bubble stuff and crumpled paper that comes with every order.

IMG_2484
Your correspondent with the boat brush, the giant box and the 50 feet of brown paper from Amazon.

Every shipment adds to our disposal problem, but the most outrageous example came last week when I got a boat brush from Amazon — a brush with a four-foot handle for scrubbing the WeLike’s decks. The day it was to arrive I stepped into our mail shack — and there was hardly room to move. The folks at the Amazon warehouse just didn’t have a long skinny box that day, so they popped the brush into a box that could have held a baby elephant, then stuffed this giant box with wadded paper in a vain attempt at keeping the brush from rattling around. We had to bring our handtruck to cart it home — not because it was heavy, just because it was unwieldy.

As I pulled out fold after fold of brown butcher paper, which had come from a roll more than 20 inches wide, I couldn’t resist grabbing a tape measure to see just how much paper they had used. It measured 50 feet long!

So far, that box and all that paper are crammed into our wood shed, where there is room only because I haven’t yet started chopping wood for next winter’s fires. Sooner or later I’m going to have to break down the box and cut it into smaller pieces and figure out a fate for it.

Meanwhile, write us nice letters (but send us no packages). Or come visit, friends. Bring trash bags when you come. 1-anchor

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