The beach was cold. Once in a while the sun shone mercifully. The wind was almost always vicious. But we could not resist the pull of the ocean tides and so my daughter and I walked a long way every day and found marvelous signs of life: a 3 foot blue shark, dead; a scotch bonnet shell; many blue and pink man of war (we pondered whether a plurality of man of war are men of war? or man of wars? settling on a simple man of war as in two deer); and quivering sea slugs we threw back into the surf.
And there were other signs of life. The two legged kind of life - trucks driving up and down the beach, bottles and litter and tide torn underpants and plastic bubble wrap and balloons and more. I felt deeply discouraged by the evident selfishness and carelessness of my fellow humans.
We are burying the earth's crust in litter. Plastic, tin, and all kinds of crap. I walked into a Dollar Store and left in disgust. We need discount stores. But almost nothing in the Outer Banks Dollar Store is worth having. Tacky trashy petroleum based trinkets for sale so cheap we can afford to fill our carts and after one use toss them out. If the store had been filled with milk and cheese, hearty breads and fruit, maybe shoes made from recycled tires ... anything worth having, needed, useful - then it would be a store of value. As it is, a Dollar Store as I saw it on the beach front is mostly a purveyor of enticingly colorful, immediately disposable, non-degradable crap.
I guess, really, Macy's is the same - only it offers enticing crap for the upper class. What are we doing? I remember shopping with my father in law in the 1970's. He was a great Canadian socialist and environmentalist, always championing simplicity, a man before his time. He would buy a package of batteries, for instance, and then calmly stand at the checkout counter pulling the packaging apart, until having peeled off the plastic and cardboard, he would hand it all to the cashier and say, "I just want to buy the batteries, not the rubbish." Always one to enjoy a good embarassing situation, I would laugh. And all the way home he would give me his rant on our garbage dumps. (He had a particular liking for me - I think he was amazed that his son could do so well - laughing.)
So ... I hang my head and confess that I am as much at fault as anyone. The chagrine I feel when my garbage cans get full doesn't change the reality that I contribute much to the existence of a burgeoning dump site. Recycling and using cloth bags for shopping makes a small impact. But as I walked the beach with my daughter and her daughters I wondered if the day will come when my people would be unable to find a pristine place to sit and wonder at the beauty of this glorious blue planet.
I don't want to be reduced to moralizing or awfulizing. Driving home from the beach my two granddaughters sang us the entire High School Musical One and Two. I suggested they might one day be on American Idol. Kyra, ten, was clear with her answer. "Oh, not me, Mimi. I love to sing but my life is dedicated to animals. I don't have time for American Idol." Touche.