Pictures and stories of a girl collecting trash on the Monocacy River

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m not sure how Juliana Sedgley’s local blog escaped my attention for almost a year, but I’m glad to have discovered it now, and I’m pleased to help bring it to your attention!

Below, please find an introductory sample, including her brief “About” comments and her two most recent blog entries. I’m confident that reading these will leave many of you wanting to explore more of her archives, and perhaps…as I recommend…sign up to receive email notifications when she posts new essays and photographs.


About Juliana’s “Trash on the Monocacy” blog

The Monocacy River is my river. I’ve lived along many, including the storied Mississippi, but the Monocacy is my home. A little urban, a little rural, deep in parts, but much too shallow in others, neglected, overused, dumped in (and on), ugly as often as it is beautiful, it is home to thousands – no, billions – of plants, animals and people.

I walk through it every day, pleased in its averageness, finding places for children to play or dog noses to sniff, taking note of the birds and change of seasons, gathering stinking mud on my boots, and I try to make plans and make sense. What have I done right, what have I not done, what should I have done, what will I do, what are my children doing, what will they do, is there anything any of us can do that will make any difference?

Always, as I walk, I pass crumpled bottles, dirtied cellophane wrappers, and shredded plastic bags, tangled in trees, half-buried in mud, and hidden beneath dead leaves and grass. These bits of garbage interrupt me, and, while at first I let them irritate me, I have finally let them answer me. Now, with my own used bag, I set out to find the trash, ferret out each piece, and actually notice it, acknowledge it, put it in my bag, and leave one small part of the Monocacy a little cleaner, a little more what it should be, a little more itself.

My actions aren’t original, of course, and I’m not a particularly spectacular environmentalist (which a smug part of me might hope to be). In fact, I’m more than a little selfish, because I like to see beauty, and that’s why I act. It’s in so many things. Even in the trash. And its disappearance.

That’s what this blog is about. Finding the beauty in the ugliest, most ordinary, most overlooked places and things. The trash on the Monocacy River.


Juliana’s February 27th blog entry:

Begin Again

There is a special time in early spring (or late winter, as it so happens) when this year’s young sprouts meet last year’s faded ghosts. The dry, burst seed pods of dogbane and the gray-headed husks of brittle goldenrod intermingle with the round, new buds of a dogwood. The delicate leaves and blue blossoms of bird’s eye speedwell break through a thick, crusty layer of leaves that last year crowned the branches of nearby hickories, oaks, and maples.

Yesterday: meet today. Or is it the other way around? To me, it is a reminder that time is not a straight line, that there are few clean endings or beginnings, and that what is behind us is never really left behind.


Juliana’s February 23rd blog entry:

Trashscapes

The warmer weather that has been hounding us most of the winter surpassed itself over the long weekend, bursting into a series of summery days that resulted in a) lots of human activity and b) lots of human trash. My elbows are still recovering from the weight of the garbage bags that I had to carry home, and I have far more recyclables than my 2 bins and bi-weekly collection schedule can manage. While I usually take a sort of housekeeperly pleasure in cleaning around the river, weekends like these are overwhelming. It’s frustrating to have to leave things behind (such as a stash of cans squirrelled beneath a log) simply because I don’t have enough bags to hold it. That’s when I remember that this is a job that is never finished. Like laundry. (Actually, I found some of that, too).

Two days of collecting were particularly intensive. On the first of these, the boys and I encountered a fire circle with one log still so smoking hot that it took little more than a dry leaf to reset it aflame.

After we hauled the log farther into the water, I set about gathering a case’s worth of beer cans, a six-pack of bottles, and other such picnicky miscellany. I couldn’t help but see the irony in having to clean up yet more Budweiser “America” beer cans, which have splashed across them the lyrics of “This Land Is Your Land,” by Woody Guthrie, a song that highlights the natural beauties of the United States. (For the song’s history, see the concise NPR story.) Yes, indeed, this land is for you and me. I wish that we could all remember that. And behave that way.

On the second day, I found an entire campsite’s worth of garbage. Literally. A tent had fallen down an eroded bank into the water below, along with a slew of cans and food wrappers, mostly submerged in mud and impossible to extricate. As I filled up all three of the bags I had brought and two more bags that I found, I was grateful for the broken, soft-sided cooler, which served as an excellent trash receptacle after I dumped the muck that had accumulated inside of it. To reach the makeshift site, I had to ford the river twice, which, since my five-foot frame was so weighed down, required that I carry everything back in shifts.

All of this activity managed to startle a fox, who zipped past me in all of his sly regalness. He wasn’t twenty feet away, but my hands were too full to grab my camera. Perhaps it was the campsite that had attracted him in the first place. It’s hard to tell. But he didn’t appear drunk, and there was very little but alcohol left to consume. I, unfortunately, stank with beer that dribbled from the cans as I collected them, and I’m pretty sure that the odor, combined with my bag-lady appearance, is what earned me a few nervous stares from families with small children on my way home.


TRASH ON THE MONOCACY
The pictures and stories of a girl collecting trash on the Monocacy River