A River of Thought

For the majority of my childhood, I grew up beside a river. It was part of my backyard, really. As essential as the ground beside it. I remember the day I discovered it had been used as a dumping ground of sorts.  I started finding things.

Old medicine bottles, broken glass, shards of faded pottery.

I remember asking my mother about it, she said, yes, people used to put their garbage in the river. I remember being stunned. Of course, years ago there was no garbage pick up. People burned their garbage or buried it on their land. Or in their rivers.
But what struck me is that these people were my grandparents. I knew these people.

I was thinking about this today, about how it connects in a way that I hadn’t realized before to my interest in understanding the landfill. And my longstanding love of the rivers, lakes and oceans.  If you want to read the introduction about my ongoing landfill project you can find it here.

Another thing that struck me. The river is still a dumping ground. It is cast with thoughtlessness. You won’t see it here, but I can tell you about it. I can tell you about the hundreds of plastic bottles that wash up every spring, the half-shredded plastic bags, the old tin cans and beer bottles. The Styrofoam. I can tell you about the bags of garbage that I’ve picked up when walking the shore.

A winter river, breaking open

Back to the landfill.  You don’t see garbage there. It is taken care of. It is a full landfill.

How could the landfill be cleaner than the river?

Grasses along a landfill pond

I recently spent another morning there. You might be surprised to know that there is a certified wildlife habitat within the boundaries. There are hundreds of birds and many deer.

You also might be surprised to know that because this landfill is closed and another one has not yet opened, we send 70 percent of our city garbage (industrial and business) out of the area.

In fact, we ship some of our garbage to Michigan.

Canada’s capital city sends garbage to the USA.

Reflections on the Landfill Pond

But I’m still wondering about the river. I’m wondering why it’s still a dumping ground? As a caretaker of the earth, I’ll be working this weekend.

All images © Karen McRae