A Perilous Walk in a Plastic World

Out once again for my daily constitutional and communion–another long morning walk–I blow slowly down this country road like the breeze in the Lynyrd Skynyrd song, like so many other wisps of Earth’s breath from time immemorial, like a ghost haunting some sacred ground.

With my every organ of sensory input wide open and on full alert, it is pretty much impossible for my eyes to miss the decidedly unnatural clutter of colorlessness that, like the natural things surrounding and hiding it (as if with embarrassment, perhaps), glistens with early morning dew in the roadside ditch: a plastic bag.

And within and scattered around that bag, like a litter of critters not completely born quite yet, a plastic soda bottle, a few empty plastic food wrappers, a Styrofoam cup with plastic lid and straw, a plastic spork….

Did some mad biochemist create and sow seeds of plastic that have finally sprouted? Pondering this, my eyes sort of glaze over as my mind’s eye starts to ramble off and my body rambles on via autopilot. And I hear in my mind’s ear, drowning out the birdsong and the breeze, a voice intoning ominously that America (and so by default the world) is addicted to oil.

And suddenly, as the country road loses its hard, firm reality, a vast plain of plastic stretches out before me…like terra firma comprised of solidified oil instead of soil, rocks, and stones. And like Dante stepping on the faces of the submerged dead in Hell, I tread upon countless plastic items that go along with daily human existence. Not just plastic soda bottles and sporks. Not just plastic bags and Saran Wrap.

No, I stumble over oil made solid in so many other forms: The PVC pipes my water flows through (and I then drink). The stretchy, oh-so-comfy nylon in my partially polyester socks and drawers. The fleece in my oh-so-warm blanket draped over my bed. The toys I have hanging around from my childhood. The polyethylene micro-spheres and other poly-whatzits in my liquid soap.

So many things, all oil made into so many forms, large and small. So many things I would expect to see hear, so many things I never would have thought to encounter. So many things recyclable, so many things not. So many things being recycled, so many things not.

Surreal mountain,
Under the gray smog of this world’s breath,
A pile of plastics climbed into the sky, so many,
I had not thought oil had made up so many.

As I step upon these things, I also envision them reaching their most likely eventual destination, the sea, where they would either be ingested by creatures equally large and small or be remodeled by the elements and time. Or maybe they would get trapped as more flotsam and jetsam in some landfill to gain immortality while being buried alive under all kinds of other trash.

But they would never go away not matter how long the time or where they might be. These various conglomerations of petroleum and all its noxious chemical cohorts (PCBs, dioxins, and many, many more) would not be conquered by time. They would be there, riding the waves, twirling in the breezes, shifting in the soil, long after I had taken my last constitutional and communion….

A chickadee’s cheerful chatter brings me back to the country road, still blowing along like the breeze and now long past that plastic bag. But I know that I will eventually blow back home to all of my solid-oil “essentials” and continue living my pervasively plasticized life in a pervasively, perilously plasticized world.

Yes, I, too, am addicted to oil, and I know just how to get a ready fix.

Image credit: William Rafti of the William Rafti Institute, via Kakoui at Wikimedia Commons.

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