Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On Recycling - A Writer's View

I posed a question to my writing group about the new ereaders. Are they here to stay? How do you feel about them as a writer. One comment made redirected my thinking from our increasingly digital world and toward innovator, Michael Reynolds, and a DVD called Garbage Warrior, about recycling and architecture. Thanks, Hunter.

Hopefully there will always be the adventurous who have imagination. challenge the norm, and recycle... like, say, writers!

Being raised by Depression Age parents (dating myself), we were always taught to "Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, Or do without." We didn't have much use for landfills as, by the time we were done with something, there wasn't much left. A pickle jar could be passed down for generations of canning; until chipped, it wound up holding odd sized nuts and bolts in the tool shed. Perhaps that is why I'm such a saver, what others may call being a pack-rat.

After the death of a loved one my sister and I had to go through the house and dispose of "stuff." In fairness, my sister did the work, I just said yea or nay to what I wanted. Being out of state did carry some advantages... and guilt. I felt like a slacker but I must admit that as I now must comb through the remains of a forty-year-lived-in 110-year-old Victorian, my admiration of my sister knows no bounds.

As I prepare our unlived-in, previously water soaked home, for re-construction, I'm tossing or giving away anything for which I don't have an immediate use or need. It's an interesting task. When the "I'll just save this" stack starts out pacing the "give it away" stack, I take a break. Yet sometimes sentiment wins.

The other day I held a handful of ephemera stored in a clay mug. I was about to toss the entirety when I spotted a small white collar button, two Legos, and a wing nut. The broken chain, paperclips, tacks, etc. went into the trash but I just stared at the button, Legos and tiny wing nut. I smiled inwardly. My husband was always losing collar buttons and here was a perfectly good, shiny white collar button. It would save a trip to the store to buy another one, I reasoned. The Legos - one was flat, black; the other was a small blue rectangle. If I had a nickel for every time I swore when I stepped on one during the 35+ years of raising children, I'd be a rich woman... but on the other hand, they conjured up small children building skyscrapers, Christmas morning, Saturday clean-the-house days, and many hours of quiet contented bliss as the boys were busy constructing in the other room. Lastly was the wing-nut. I'd gone to the hardware store one day and asked for an airplane nut only to get a blank stare. I described it but the stare didn't improve. I finally drew it and voila, the man cried out in triumph, "You want a wing-nut." I couldn't see what all the fuss was about. After all, airplanes have wings!

At any rate, I placed the button, the Legos and the wing-nut safely back in the mug and placed it in the "to keep" box. The next day I ran across handwritten notes, stories, cards, and report cards from various children at various ages. These also went into my "to keep" box.

I then wrote an email to my children apologizing in advance that I was saving some "memories" and that I'd label the box "Mother's Memories," while at the same time giving them permission to burn it upon my demise or to have fun looking through my "junque" and deciding what each meant to me for each had a story attached.

As writers, we go through life and gather events, observations, and stuff. These things percolate in our imagination and are reborn on the page. A black and a blue Lego can symbolize a home bruised and being reborn. A button can represent closure and a wing-nut can speak volumes of humor, the journey, and freedom.


  1. Jan, really nice reflections. At the heart, it's about what we can do in our own way to save, recycle. Rather than worry about the next person, it starts with me. My task for the year was to cut the waste of food, starting with what I purchase, right down to how I trim veggies. I used to cut parts off (like tops of celery or the bottoms of mushrooms)--now it all goes into the pot. The small waste (onion skins, particularly), goes to compost. I'm feeding the skunk and raccoons, really! In total, I've cut down considerably on waste in the trash, reduced spending, and all other things that add up. H

  2. Cool Mom, glad you have this blog, neat to see your thoughts. Xo