Thursday, June 30, 2011

Litter Mob 5 - help wanted

Rubus occidentalis

Our 5th Litter Mob will take place on Tuesday, July 5th in Prospect Park. I can promise you wild black raspberries, possible mushrooms, bird song and...litter.

If that sounds agreeable please get in touch and meet us at 9am at the corner of East Drive and Center Drive in the park, just off the Flatbush Avenue entrance to the park. Take the B/Q to Prospect Park, or the 2/3 to Grand Army Plaza and walk about 12 minutes.


We will be fresh off a long weekend in Pennsylvania and feeling quite grumpy. Apparently this July 4th weekend is notorious for trash. Will the woods have been hopping?

We shall see.

[See original comments here]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Litter Mob 4

Tuesday, first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and we headed back into the woods of Prospect Park. The longest day.

I never sleep the night before these litter mobs. I don't know why. I now expect it, so perhaps it is self-fulfilling. Three hours, max. I am not nervous, I just don't sleep. Vince brings me coffee early, I am queasily awake. We walk to the subway, I am grumpy and tired. Once in the woods it is forgotten.

The beautiful stewartia flower are open. We looked at them near the Audubon Center beside the pea-green lake upon which two swans and five fluffy cygnets sailed, pursued sluggishly by a box of pink gum. A turtle was laying her eggs in the grass. I had never seen such a thing.  We met up with our Natural Resources crew minders and Inge, a new volunteer. Later I fished another newcomer, Danielle, out from where she was a bit lost. I should lay a trail of crumbs. Just four of us today.

The brush we had dragged around the ancient tulips trees had stayed put. This is where the ground is badly compacted, with no chance of plant survival. Not too many new condoms or fresh trash, there. But up on the ridge towards Rick's Place -  a steep warren of interwoven paths and meeting logs (my term) - the litter was prolific. Bottles, condom wrappers, condoms, plastic, lube, cups, candy, the works. Behind a well-used log I found a beautiful cluster of young chicken-of the-woods mushrooms. A great delicacy, but they stayed put. Because the worst or most troubling is not really the used condoms. I am used to them now.  It is the soiled tissue paper, newspaper, the piles of human ordure at the base of logs, that hijack you as you walk by and swipe them into your bag. This worries me. We wear gloves, we have grabbers and bags, but you brush sweat off your face, or hair from the eyes, scratch an itch. I think we are hyper-aware of touching our own bodies with our hands, now, but it happens. As one polite young man put it, as we chatted about all the other people (it's always other people) who make a mess in these woods, "There is also much sickness here."

Ja well no fine.

I STILL like the woods. I see beauty every time. I see them as they should be. A quiet place of refuge and green. But I am beginning to feel like a sucker. Money is apparently poured into an amenity like a new skating rink while the real park disintegrates and is patched up piecemeal...And I ponder taking pride in one's work, and work ethics. Park employees working ten feet away from a pile of trash ignored it and drove away. Not their job? Unions? Self respect seems deeply attached to the issue of litter.

The photos above: The crucifix was the strangest thing we found, with seashells and glass beads. Part of a Santeria ceremony, perhaps. We put them carefully back. We did see an imposing woman emerge from these woods some weeks back and very priestess-like she looked, too.

So how about it, Commissioner Jeffrey? You said that you were going to tackle litter in the parks during your watch. And Mr Garner and Ms Lloyd of the Prospect Park Alliance? Prospect Park is your flagship. Its website invites children to experience nature, along with a nice picture of the log paths where we collect condoms. I invite you to tackle it with us in two weeks time, on the 5th of July. Right after a long weekend. Should be groovy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Litter Mob 2 - Beauty and the Beast

What do I see in the woods? Why do I go to the woods? Why do I retreat from the wide sunlight of the green ball fields and the sedate islands of trees in seas of grass?

The goutweed is in bloom. It is high early summer.

The air is seagreen.

The jewelweed, just a couple of inches above the leaf litter when we assembled for our first Litter Mob in the Midwood of Prospect Park, six weeks ago, is now thigh high.

You can see the Merchant Ivory credits rolling...

May apples are setting fruit, where they have not been trampled.

Full stop.

I really questioned whether to add the ugly pictures, this time. Over-exposure. Our own,  the readers'. A loss of sympathy. A weariness. Blunted outrage.  This blog is about looking the other way, when it comes to what is ugly. It is about the possible, not about the probable. And to show the beast with the beauty would imply that I have to do it with all my posts. But I won't. 

I will go on posting about flowers and food and gardens and green places, except in rare deviations, and with Prospect Park, where I will post the ugliness until it is contained. Because so far our litter gathering troop is a bandaid. And until the litter and its complicated causes are addressed humanely, intelligently, firmly and with integrity, a bandaid we volunteers will remain. And that is not good enough. 


But I guess I have to draw a line. Must not show what is really there. Distasteful. The Times had an expert on taste and style check/vet aspects of their story and so my internal expert just threw out the pictures: What were you thinking???- said the internal expert. So here is some of what was there today, before we picked it up and put it in our bags.  

The paths in the goutweed are beautiful. But follow them to a big old screening tree, look down at its base, and the verdure vanishes. 

You still hear the whistle of the chipmunk, the dead tree rattling under the hammer of the woodpecker, the cardinal advertising, the bee on the goutweed flower. 

But you also hear an internal buzz. An angry hum. And you see these woods, these beautiful woods, ruined. And you see no plan in place to change that. 

Later you walk a bit and see mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms. On a nice, high log. There's not much appetite for them. You are thinking about contagious diseases and biohazardous waste. But you feel happier.

Then you find a beautiful flower like a rose, that turns out to be Rubus odoratus. And soon you find more.

And you think of high summer, and berries. And then you go for a ride in a big truck and fetch woodland perennials to plant.

And the internal plant geek says to the internal style and taste expert, Snapoudof it! But the taste and style expert stands firm and hisses, Plant!

Which you do. Arisaema triphyllum - Jack-in-the-pulpit.

And that is how we end. Planting solidago and wood asters, too.

As usual, huge thanks to the litter mobsters who showed up today: Olga Kuchukov (above), Frank Meuschke, Paulo Freitas, Elizabeth Royte, Vincent Mounier (yes, him), and to David, John and Jessica. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Litter Mob 3 - 6/7, Prospect Park

Our haul on May 24th.

We meet again. East Drive and Center Drive.

Please RSVP in the comments or via email (click profile picture)- this ensures gloves and grabbers for you, and also makes me feel better -  if you are able to help this Tuesday at 9am. Details here.

I've seen a few open spaces in the last couple of weeks - Central Park, Pelham Bay, Dead Horse Bay (kind of funny, that one), Battery Park and am startled afresh by how much litter Prospect Park boasts, by comparison.