This I Believe

Shirley (Keyron) - Cascade, Iowa
Entered on October 29, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: environment
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

This I Believe — UNFUN

What I believe is really nothing to write home or rave on the radio about.

It’s a nit-picking, pedestrian, pain-in-the-butt: Walking or biking to the grocery store with the recyclables and schlepping the groceries back in the reusable bags you schlepped over there, a compost container stinking by the kitchen sink, recyclable bins taking up room on the back porch. Putting a plate over the leftovers like Mom used to to cut out the tinfoil and plastic wrap.

Sweating the small stuff is time-consuming too: squatting in the garden thinning the carrots and pulling weeds. Fabricating dishcloths, scrub and dust rags from worn-out sheets and towels. From old clothes and scraps, braided rugs and quilts. Hanging the clothes out on the line, so you don’t use the drier and waste electricity.

Too boot, I have sparse grass, dandelions, plantain, and a veritable homeopath’s list of other weeds in my yard because if you put down weed killers, they run off into the North Fork of the Maquoketa River behind my property, end up in the Mississippi, which runs a few miles from here, roll down to the Gulf of Mexico, and create a dead space at the mouth of the river the size of Rhode Island. And it’s getting bigger.

The other day subbing in a classroom, we were cleaning up after an art project and I was exhorting the kids to recycle their paper scraps. They were complaining and asked, “What difference does it make, Ms. McD?”

“Well, it doesn’t make much difference to me, I’m an old broad and will be out of here in a few years. But you are young and living in an increasing polluted world.” Thinking the response excessive, they laughed.

What is excessive? I’m wondering if America’s changing financial fortunes might not be a silver lining to a storm cloud of excess. Gradually rising gas prices have contrived to give bikers and walkers out there both a strong financial incentive and company, along with the permanent physical advantage of exercise.

The sub-prime mortgage mess is probably long overdue. A lot of money has made us wasteful and unappreciative. Both as a nation and as individuals we have squandered our treasure, indulged in the luxury of having new all the time, wasting, fighting wars instead of the more creative, diplomatic, painstaking, time-consuming, pedestrian, pain-in-the-butt, approaches. It’s part of our national character: we like the quick fix, fast buck and simple solution. Well, some things aren’t.

Sometimes too, philosophical commentaries like this give us a lofty, soaring-like-a-bird-among-the-clouds sense, but for the most part, being a friend of the earth is a daily grind. It is only occasionally when you step back, feel the muscles in your tight tummy and firm legs from biking and flexibility in your back, shoulders, and knees from gardening that you know.