It's a wash

I've been working on a teaching project about ethics for about a year. The project, called Doing Theory, considers the precepts of a yogic path (quite similar to the commandments and other religious/ethical guidelines) in the context of here and now, through a lens that is distinctly feminist, intersectional, artistic and socially engaged. Last fall I started working with Saucha, the practice of cleanliness, by picking up trash on my favorite hiking trail. My meditation is to think of someone who has picked up after me and extend them gratitude every time I pick up after someone else. As soon as I decided to do the project I started finding biodegradable bags that folks had dropped on the path. It was as if the forest spirits knew what I was doing and wouldn't let me have an excuse of having forgotten a bag. I've noticed my irritation and boredom with my own apathy arise when I pick up careless litter like cigarette butts and wet wipes. I've noticed profound gratitude with big pieces of trash like bottles or full wrappers as I think about my family and friends who've totally picked up messes I made and couldn't clean up. I notice infinite shame and sadness with all the tiny pieces of wrappers and my thoughts go towards the ocean, the air and the millions of people who live with, and are trashed by constant Western consumption. While I don't think that my small acts really make that much difference on their own, I think that all of ours combined could. What spaces do you love and how could you care for them? Who picks up after you and how can you appreciate and assist them?

Participate in this project with me by documenting the trash you pick up, or the ways you help keep spaces clean, and share your stories and photos on Instagram with the hashtag #itsawash

 
 I had found one bag at a time for a while and kept forgetting to bring them. I was disgusted by the thought of putting trash in my pockets. Then one day right in the middle of the path was one green bag with about 30 more empty bags inside.  #nomoreexcuses

I had found one bag at a time for a while and kept forgetting to bring them. I was disgusted by the thought of putting trash in my pockets. Then one day right in the middle of the path was one green bag with about 30 more empty bags inside. #nomoreexcuses

 It's funny to me now that I used to smoke cigarettes, but I did for over a decade. I started as a young teen when it felt cool and sexy to be angsty. I would chain smoke and flick the butts on to the street. During that same span of time I was running away and skipping school. My mom was so worried and stressed. She was single and working hard to finish going to school while also keeping a full time job. Because I was so miserable in the public school system she let me drop out and helped me homeschool. She helped me in countless ways to not make a mess out of my life.

It's funny to me now that I used to smoke cigarettes, but I did for over a decade. I started as a young teen when it felt cool and sexy to be angsty. I would chain smoke and flick the butts on to the street. During that same span of time I was running away and skipping school. My mom was so worried and stressed. She was single and working hard to finish going to school while also keeping a full time job. Because I was so miserable in the public school system she let me drop out and helped me homeschool. She helped me in countless ways to not make a mess out of my life.

 I wish there was more education about how much trash diapers and menstrual products create. There are much better, more environmentally friendly options like cloth diapers and pads, natural sponges and diva cups. I wish people were less ashamed of their bodies and could more easily accept that blood, piss and shit come out of them... and that all those substances when given straight back to the earth make amazing fertilizer. Today I feel grateful for the folks who work in the sanitary departments. I feel grateful for the folks who are thinking about better options for waste management. I feel grateful to the farmers who remember how to compost.

I wish there was more education about how much trash diapers and menstrual products create. There are much better, more environmentally friendly options like cloth diapers and pads, natural sponges and diva cups. I wish people were less ashamed of their bodies and could more easily accept that blood, piss and shit come out of them... and that all those substances when given straight back to the earth make amazing fertilizer. Today I feel grateful for the folks who work in the sanitary departments. I feel grateful for the folks who are thinking about better options for waste management. I feel grateful to the farmers who remember how to compost.

 The flotsam becomes mixed in with the soil and sea. It feels pointless to pick one small piece and know that it's just going to the dump. I heard the other day that there's no natural sea salt unpolluted by plastics. Small pieces get smaller. The particles of compounds get stored in our bodies and become mutations in our DNA. What a pity that human creativity gets turned towards chemical synthesis when so much ingenuity and right use of resource is possible! Today I'm grateful for the algae and seaweeds that clean and filter the water. For the trees and grasses that clean and filter the air.

The flotsam becomes mixed in with the soil and sea. It feels pointless to pick one small piece and know that it's just going to the dump. I heard the other day that there's no natural sea salt unpolluted by plastics. Small pieces get smaller. The particles of compounds get stored in our bodies and become mutations in our DNA. What a pity that human creativity gets turned towards chemical synthesis when so much ingenuity and right use of resource is possible! Today I'm grateful for the algae and seaweeds that clean and filter the water. For the trees and grasses that clean and filter the air.

 I've been fortunate in my life to travel a lot. I think it's ridiculous all these signs about how we are the 99% that I see on the backs of nice cars and stickers on the lawns of nice houses here in nice neighborhoods in the USA. If you've traveled at all outside of the first world you've seen how the trash we make accumulates there. You've seen the millions of plastic bottles litter everywhere in countries where there's no trash pick up, and definitely not much for recycling. And here in this country, in every city there are lowest income neighborhoods that become the sites for the heaviest pollution. Trucks get routed through them and the dumps get built there. Poor kids grow up with respiratory problems and developmental delays that are results of environmental toxins. Their parents are the ones who clean the homes of the 1%, who do the dishes, pick the food, take care of the kids who get to grow up with green lawns and quiet streets.

I've been fortunate in my life to travel a lot. I think it's ridiculous all these signs about how we are the 99% that I see on the backs of nice cars and stickers on the lawns of nice houses here in nice neighborhoods in the USA. If you've traveled at all outside of the first world you've seen how the trash we make accumulates there. You've seen the millions of plastic bottles litter everywhere in countries where there's no trash pick up, and definitely not much for recycling. And here in this country, in every city there are lowest income neighborhoods that become the sites for the heaviest pollution. Trucks get routed through them and the dumps get built there. Poor kids grow up with respiratory problems and developmental delays that are results of environmental toxins. Their parents are the ones who clean the homes of the 1%, who do the dishes, pick the food, take care of the kids who get to grow up with green lawns and quiet streets.

 I'm grateful for all the people who have helped me navigate insecurity. Insecurities make the biggest, stinkiest, stickiest messes. To the ones who could (and can) sense it when I wasn't behaving or speaking from a healthy space in myself, thank you for not responding with manipulation or condescension and for choosing compassion and patience instead. Helping each other clean up the emotional messes that have been inflicted by who-knows-what is sacred and endless work.

I'm grateful for all the people who have helped me navigate insecurity. Insecurities make the biggest, stinkiest, stickiest messes. To the ones who could (and can) sense it when I wasn't behaving or speaking from a healthy space in myself, thank you for not responding with manipulation or condescension and for choosing compassion and patience instead. Helping each other clean up the emotional messes that have been inflicted by who-knows-what is sacred and endless work.

 Thank you to the street sweepers and trash collectors everywhere

Thank you to the street sweepers and trash collectors everywhere