One of my walks last week yielded a bounty - a mini fridge, a shop vac and TV, a clothes dryer, bedsprings, and should you be hungry, a rotting goat. It's easy to be angry at this wanton disregard for our environment and the accompanying belief that the land is big enough to absorb whatever we throw at it. And I am, angry.
But I also remember a time many years ago when I first started hanging out with Dellie Norton. This one particular day we went to visit one of her relatives - a short drive and longer walk into a deep holler, following a boldly flowing creek. A small, broad valley with a patch of waist-high tobacco alongside a significant garden, a log cabin with wrap-around porch and smoke rising from the chimney - it couldn't have been more idyllic. We forded the creek, stepping gingerly on wobbly rocks and there we came face to face with the household dump site - an enormous pile of milk jugs, disposable diapers, tin cans, clothes, tires, and appliances - all spilling from the road and into the creek.
The very idea of trash was a relatively new concept for people like Dellie. Her's was not a throw-away culture. Use and reuse was what she lived by. But the arrival of modern culture to the mountains brought plastic, more packaging, and more waste. The thought of hauling it to a landfill and paying money to throw it away made no sense when it could simply be thrown in the creek where the next heavy rain would wash it from sight.
Now, some forty years later, I want to believe people surely know better, that we've learned that plastic and electronics don't simply vanish in the soil, that tires don't recycle in creeks. But evidence from my walks says, "no, we've learned nothing." Makes we wonder if it's not my anger that's misplaced.
That I should think instead of A Boxspring's Memory. Bits of cloth, cotton stuffing, invoices, a pair of intact panty hose, lacking only a good washing. And stories. Stories from the boxspring itself, of bouncing and creaking, of rust and decay. And stories from the owners of such things - My life with Boxsprings. And maybe from the imaginations and memories of people who see these pictures. It's what pictures do.