Gimbling in the Wabe – Trash and Treasure

by Sharon Browning

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I will be the first to admit that I walk slowly.  I don’t even really walk – I stroll.  It’s been years since my husband and I have walked side by side:  he’s always moving, rushing, in motion, whereas I tend to amble; he gets there, I get there eventually.  It’s just the way it is – no harm, no foul.

But this is one of the reasons why I drive the Mighty Belle to the off-leash dog park (or other parkland area) every Belle3.12.15day.  While she is fine with walking next to me on a leash, I don’t feel like my ambulatory ramblings give her the chance to stretch her legs and gambol around to a healthy degree.  Still, there are some days, like today, where I don’t have access to a car to take her to a spot where she can run free, so she has to settle for a nice stroll around the neighborhood with pokey-joe-me.

It helps when the day is as lovely as today was.  Even though it’s February, up here in Minnesota we’ve seen mild temperatures consistently above the freezing mark, which means that the sidewalks are clear instead of covered with an icy sheen of slick snowmelt.  And as an added bonus, today the sun was actually shining in a bright blue sky!  It’s midweek, midmorning, so the streets were fairly quiet, and one could hear birdcalls and wind chimes along with the background rumble of traffic and the occasional car horn or growl of a badly tuned engine.

Whenever I take Belle anywhere, I always take three plastic bags with me – bags like the ones you get at Walgreens when you pick up aspirin or Nyquil, or from the grocery store when you only pop in for essentials like milk or eggs or frozen pizza.  I carry one bag in case Belle, um, you know…., a second bag just in case she “you knows” again, and a third for the unexpected that may happen.  But when our sojourns are walks around our urban neighborhood, I generally always end up using that third bag to pick up trash.

When you live in the inner city, you’re always going to have to deal with other people’s trash.  It’s a sad but inevitable fact.  Not all of it is due to human indifference, though; there are overstuffed garbage bins where loose trash is blown about by the wind, or scattered by squirrels at a sloppy municipal buffet.  But yeah, a lot of it is, unfortunately, tossed out of speeding cars or dropped by those passing through – discarded cigarette packs, fast food bags, coffee cups, candy wrappers, or worse.  It doesn’t take much for me on one of my walks with Belle to lean over and pick up errant pieces of trash.  So what if I’m not the person who threw it down; it’s not like that person is going to return and say, “Oh, I say old chap, I’m so sorry I tossed that Slurpee cup out the window of my car the other day; simply beastly behavior on my part!  Please allow me to remove it post haste, and upon my word, it shall never happen again!”

Ah, well.  I don’t mind, and I like thinking that I’ve left a place better while passing through.  After all, I have no pressing agenda, no place to be, just a need to be out with my dog, to be present in my neighborhood and to enjoy the day.  If I take a bag of trash out of it with me, so much the better.

Little Free LibraryAnother pleasant thing I get to do during these walks is to look through the Little Free Libraries dotting whatever route I end up taking.  Minneapolis is mad for Little Free Libraries – you know, those independent curbside book exchanges that folks set up on the edge of their property, often shaped like little buildings, where you are free take a book or leave a book for someone else to take.  In my short little half-mile jaunt to today, I passed three such Little Free Libraries.  I normally stop to look in each one I pass, and enjoy browsing through the titles, and often tidy them up a bit, making sure all the spines are visible and that the books aren’t all jumbled up.  I rarely find anything I want to take (I have soooo many books already on my “to be read” pile – er, piles!).  It’s still fun to look.

But today, at the second Little Free Library, I found a treasure!  A pristine paperback copy of Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son, which won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction!  I had read and reviewed the book shortly after it won the Pulitzer, and had been quite taken by it.  But the copy I read had been on loan from the public library; I have never owned the book myself, although I have longed to.  And there it was!  Seeing it there, free for the taking, was like manna falling from heaven.

I thought for a moment that I should leave in there for someone else to discover, someone who possibly had not read it yet.  But there have been many times in the last few years where I wished I had my own copy of this book to reference, or to share with a friend (you can give a recommendation until you’re blue in the face, but put an actual copy of the book in a friend’s hands and it’s a much better bet they’ll read it).  And I remembered that, after reading Mr. Johnson’s fantastic 2015 National Book Award winning Fortune Smiles, I again ached to have a copy of The Orphan Master’s Son to add to my collection.

So I took it.  And I’m absolutely thrilled about it.

As I walked home, clutching the book under my arm, with a happy dog by my side, the sun on my face, a cleaner world behind me and a waiting pot of coffee to welcome me back home, I felt  that I was in one of those perfect moments that may be fleeting, but which nevertheless make life so marvelous.

Trash and treasure,
in equal measure,
with the Mighty Belle,
and all is well.
In this moment, all is well.

~ Sharon Browning

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