One Man Gathers What Another Man Spills

Caroline - Davenport, Iowa
Entered on April 8, 2008

I believe in the truth, beauty, and necessity of the adage that one man gathers what another man spills. I live this belief not only for the sake of reducing, reusing, and recycling; though I’m a firm believer in always keeping my area clean. But when I was a child my Granda would come over from Ireland to visit and I would be taken on extraordinary excursions. Granda is a gatherer. If it’s cheap or free, working or not, toxic or clean, it finds its way into his massive pockets and home to the safety of his salons. These “salons” were rooms in his home in Ireland-he had two of them and a shed, full from floor to ceiling of bric-a-brac, bits and pieces, cogs and springs. Everything from gun parts, to watch workings, or any bit of electrical gadget he could get his hands on. All these things would find their way into his space and ultimately be forgotten until needed days or decades later. He was always called upon to fix what was broken or rig what needed to be rigged. The ingenuity of that man is mind boggling. He could fix your bike, rewire the toaster and make you an intricate charm bracelet out of the treasures in his salons.

His visits always had their high points: garage and thrift shopping for days on end; listening to stories from his time with the United Nations Peacekeeping forces in the Belgian Congo; and panning for gold in the Canadian Rockies. He is obsessed with the Klondike and can recite the entire collected works of Robert Service. But the visits also had their low points. As a budding teenage girl, the mandatory trips to the local dump to forage for treasures and the mortification of watching him root through my neighbor’s garbage being the lowest of the low. He is a non-discriminate gatherer.

Now I have children of my own, the first named for my Granda. They have the supreme joy of being raised by a gatherer who was trained by the best. I take them to yard sales, Sally Ann, and the Goodwill stores-and they really do love it. Yesterday for the first time they had the mortification of witnessing me root through someone’s garbage. I could hear my Granda’s voice, “sure, ‘tis only garbage, it’ll clean up grand!” as I placed my pilfered flower pot into the back of my mini van. I was excited and giddy, so pleased with my treasure, I could feel it like a warmth deep inside me. And he’s right, it will clean up grand.

I believe in gathering what another man spills.