Fellow children of the 80s/90s, who else has vivid memories of this song, and how it was the backdrop for some big events around the world? About thirty years later, when I listen to this song, it makes me wonder how my kids are navigating their own journey of “watching the world wake up from history“. I fear the news for them is a bit heavier then it was when I was in my early teens.
I know my teen is confused, just as much as I am right now. I also know she is a scared, just like I am too. With so much uncertainty, I think these are both very valid and common emotions.
Heading into this year with a fresh bucket of hope though, I’ve been trying to flip the narrative of the song a bit. And instead of having it prompt me to dwell even deeper on uncertain topics that stream across all screens, clawing for my attention and worry… topics that my little brain can not fix – I’m using it instead as a prompt to be present where I am – Right Here, Right Now. ( Ironically enough, as I type this, one of my dog is pawing at my keyboard reminding me to be present and pet her ).
If something is broken, we can work to fix it.
Oh dear, a politcal post? Far from it friends… I have friends and family that sit all along the spectrum of division in our country, and honestly there are enough things online to build further tension and deepen the divide. This post is just how I’m coping with things, and how I have opted to turn my energy and thoughts towards something that is broken much closer to my home. And how instead of being filled with worry, I’m just trying to help pickup the trash as a small step towards fixing the bigger problem.
“We are all ordinary people in extraordinary times,” tweeted Kim, D.-3rd Dist. “What I did isn’t special, it’s the same thing that drives us to volunteer at a homeless shelter or donate to a food bank: the idea that if something is broken, we can work to fix it.”via nj.com, emphasis me
If you have read any of my ramblings here, you know that I get outside every day to fish. Sometimes when the weather is especially gnar, “fishing” entails throwing maybe 10 casts into the fierce wind/rain/snow/wildfire smoke. It’s not so much about catching fish, its about showing up for myself and getting into nature where my I am happiest.
On these daily trips to the river, I often pickup the random trash I find along the way. Always leave the campsite better than you found it – was what we would say back in scouts. We do this as a family on trips, I’ve also enlisted classrooms of kids on field trips to do the same. It feels good. So I decided to make a point of picking up trash everyday.
You see the thing that is broken much closer to home, is the Deschutes River. Indeed there are so many other big problems challenging Central Oregon. Skyrocketing housing prices, a severe shortage of affordable housing options, a growing population of residents living out of trailers and tents on the national forest land. And of course the national level problems of political divide are most definitely present here too.
Alongside those big problems, the Deschutes River runs through it all. Many nights I walk down the street with my younger daughter after dinner. We get to a spot where you can see the river through the trees in the fading twilight. And I recite a mantra of mine to her – “The river is still there, flowing to the ocean”. Indeed the river still flows, amazingly so at times given how much harm we the people have done to her.
Lately on these wanders by the river, I have been thinking quite a bit about how much the river gives me. A daily reprieve from the shit-storm of the outside world, feelings of calm, peace, and hope. And every once-in-a-while, the river gives me the opportunity to play a fish attached to a line, the other end of the line attached to my soul – oh how I like those gifts very much. These gifts remind me of the wonderful book by Shel Silverstein – The Giving Tree.
And I’m sure that many of you know how that book goes – the tree keeps on giving until all that is left to give is her old stump to sit upon. I fear that the growing populous of Central Oregon is doing just the same to the Deschutes – constantly looking for gifts, but not remembering to give back to the river.
So much like Rep Kim did this week when he couldn’t think of what else to do to begin to fix the problems, I too just started to pickup trash each day at the river. Just like Mr. Kim, I don’t think this is anything special, yet it is just acknowledging that something is broken, and I can do something small to help move towards change.
Thus far on my daily stroll by the river in ’21 ( trying to call it “two-one” to avoid saying twenty twenty these days 🙂 ), the trash pickup has become one of my favorite ways to spend time in the water. It oddly reminds me of the time I spent as a kid playing in the creek behind our house: exploring, finding treasures, being curious. I can’t quite explain it in words, but being mindful about performing stewardship towards something I care deeply about, about something that gives us all life here in Central Oregon – is deeply satisfying.
The hunt for trash in the river, unfortunately, is like one of the easiest easter-egg hunts ever. You know the type of “hunt” parents setup for little toddlers – the eggs shimmering in plain site. After retrieving one piece of trash, I simply have to scan in a quick circle to find the next, typically less then 5′ away. It is rewarding, and depressing all at once. But when something is broken, you just need to get down and start to pickup the pieces to work towards fixing the problem right?
I’ve started to chronicle my little efforts on a new project/YouTube channel if you are interested in following along. I’ve also started to tie flies using bits of trash from the river, and plan on putting some of those, along with other “upcycled” fishing wares on a new website I’m building called fivedimefly.co. Will it fix all the problems facing the Deschutes, nope, but I do hope that others out there might see me fishing golf balls out of the river, and maybe they too will start to bring a trash bag with them when walking their dog, or when going for a hike. Together, we can fix the problems.
I am happy to report that one of my “trash flies” was popular with the resident white fish yesterday. The trash ingredient was dental floss, something I’m sure my dentist would be delighted by. Perhaps I’ll call the pattern the Skyline Special.
Anyhow, this ramble has gone on a bit long already. Thank you for reading, and I hope you can find something close to home and find a way to also make some change for the better, right here, right now. Or at the very least, turn off the screen, get outside, and watch the river flow by on its’ journey to the ocean.
Be kind to yourself, and be kind to others.