In my experience living in New York garbage is as abundant as anything else; trains, delis on the corners, or the food trucks that line the streets. We don’t just buy food but we accumulate trash. Things we don’t try to use are left for the homeless person or the sanitation man or for no one, so our sidewalks are as much concrete as they are trash.
I’ve always recognized that New York is a dirty city but I never really thought about what all the trash meant. I never thought the trash really meant anything, I mean to an extent I stopped seeing trash. The trash is the train, the deli, and the sidewalk; the things that are just there, well fingers crossed the train comes before I pee my pants.
Here on the west coast of Ireland there isn’t garbage; there is only compost. I mean everything is re-used in some way. The metals, plastics, and papers are recycled in the regular way. All the food we don’t eat is given to the chickens, what they don’t eat is then put in a vegetable bed to fertilize the soil. The egg shells are dried and then smashed up and given back to chickens (makes stronger egg shells). The water that we boil eggs in has minerals that are good for plants so that goes into watering. Animal fat we don’t eat is given to Jess, the best Dalmatian in the world. If you kill a chicken (still haven’t sorted that out in my mind) the feathers can make dream catchers. Then most of it can be eaten. Then when you have the carcass you boil it to make broth. All animal poop is good poop. I just spent the morning shoveling urine and poop sodden hay to wheel up to the vegetable beds. Jars and tins are saved for the making of jams and the drying of tea. Then at another farm up the road we picked up donkey poop with our gloved hands and shoved it in bags for the compost. The same farm has a compost toilet. A little medley of animal and human poop is arriving at a garden bed near you very soon
Everything has a reason. The idea of discarding mindlessly, isn’t here. It can be burned, re-used, or reconstituted. The girl I’m wwoofing with eats everything that drops on the floors, she usually beats the dog to it. The truth is I work, play, in the dirt, animal poop, every day and I feel cleaner then when I ride the subway.
The detachment from things in the city, doesn’t exist here. In NY most things are foreign. Wraps, salads, or pizza slices are bought on the go. Meals and snack are bought frequently away from your home in small disposable packaging. Therein lies the ingredients for convenience and space. We buy nice things from nice stores that are functioned to be kept. I think in cities there is also this fear of dirt. Everything and anything can make you sick. Perhaps it is fear that prevents us from making anything ours, it is easier to keep the foreign substance out. To only keep the things with clean white corners, or the crystal clear glass of mason jars.
Here everything is made intimate. If there is a foreign honey or peanut butter jar. It is cleaned and packed away in a wooden box where it is sterilized twice and used to store jam with new hand written labels. All foreign is turned intimate. The poop from the toilet becomes synonymous with the poop of your dog and it all goes into making your flower beds, and in some cases vegetables, more plentiful and rich. There is no garbage here, perhaps because there is no fear. Nothing is seen as dirty and tossed aside before it can touch your shirt. Things are cared for.
I guess the concept of eating something covered with a little dirt from a rain forest rather than the invisible dirt from a subway floor isn’t new. But the idea of eliminating garbage from our lives, is something to think about. Anyway my three weeks here have already taught me to be less afraid of dirt. Something is dirty and kept foreign when you don’t see it as a part of you. Living here helps me to see how everything has a part in me.