field reports: sifting through the overgrowth

oregon, outdoor, rethink waste, travel

On the backroads of Washington County, where it not for absence of scooters and abundance of evergreens, one might mistake surroundings for Southeast Asia. Dilapidated homes, ancient farm equipment, oxidizing corrugated metal and other such relicts lay waste across the country side. Even the tightly lined crops occasionally resembled rice patties. While the spattering of condemned farm buildings were being swallowed by weed, vine, bush and tree, I was enjoying a bike ride along a loop of forgotten roads.

The need for family operated farms had changed locally, regionally, and nationally.  As evidenced by the decay, it seemed many had left this land behind. A sense of morning grew with each passing property, save for the odd farm still in operation.  The land seemed to teater on the brink of two futures; continue to fight for a place in the past, or give into the vines. A daughter of a father who grew up in these parts, I wondered if neglect was in my DNA.

As I turned a corner, a Red Winged Black Bird called out to me. I looked at the windowless walls, the peeling paint, and the disintegrating shingles that lined the road I was riding. Personally, I’d fought long and hard for my attachment to my past, my suffering. Sometimes it felt as if I’d piled broken dreams, discarded memories and all kinds of rubbish on my front lawn and relished in the ambiance. Debris stretched like a fence around the property that might represent my heart. With each passing day, the brambles grew thicker and I imagined nothing could pry away the wreckage.

The next morning I woke, and chose the same ride. As I rounded a familiar corner, the same Red Winged Black Bird called out to me. This time I dismounted and sat below her perch for a while. I noticed an abandoned barn far beyond the tree she claimed. The rust covered silo looked as though it had seen more productive days. She sang her familiar song, as if to say, “grieve not the loss of these things”. Several other species joined on the perch and in the chorus. Thanking her for the wisdom she had imparted, I was left with the realization; decay is the path to renewal and the reassurance, transformation does not come without sacrifice. I new infrastructure would have to crumble to create room for plants to grow and birds sing. I bid farewell to Red Winged Black Bird realizing all this loss was a new beginning and rubbish was fertile ground for seedlings. Even if the wreckage couldn’t be removed, something would inevitably grow from it.



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