Bag It

Yesterday I was out cutting branches and baby elm trees out of the lilac hedge. It was a pretty good project for a warm February day and a lot easier than doing it in summer. I have a couple of elms in that hedge I need to hire someone to demolish, but the way I see it, the more of that I do the less I have to pay for. I’m cheap labor, not good, but definitely cheap. A lilac branch had extended into the alley, and I could imagine the silent curses (or not so silent) of my neighbors as they drove past. But the fewer irksome frustrations for those around me, the better my life is.

Norris Medina, who delivers stuff to my house in his UPS truck — and who single-handedly, basically, brought all the furniture from wherever to me when I moved here and didn’t have anything (we joked about it a lot back then) — and I were talking about how the world has changed since 2019. We both think that people are meaner. I hated to think of what that meant to HIM because he has to go to all kinds of houses every day. Later I thought about Tim, my sagacious plumber and our conversations about kindness. I put those two conversations together and realized that behind them both are experiences with mean people. And that they both comment? They must — as I do — find the meanness a change. Maybe it’s also a little strange that I have philosophical conversations with my plumber and UPS guy, but there it is.

In my Facebook memories this morning was a description of a day in 2019, just an ordinary day except that there was snow on the golf course, and I was skiing. The kids up the alley had just moved in, and I was just getting to know them. The little boy was in the yard waiting for Bear and me. We talked for a few minutes, Bear jumped up on the fence to get petted and was taller than the little boy. We made a date to say “Hi!” the next day.

That was it. Nothing strange or intense or challenging, just unremitting sweetness and snow. I keep wondering, “Is the change ME???” but when others talk to me about it I see it isn’t JUST me, though certainly I have changed. For me the change happened on January 6 2021 and the continuation of that event hasn’t helped at all. That day broke me.

Norris said it well the other day when he said, “Oh, yeah, politics. I vote and everything, and I know my vote counts, but none of them really represent me.” It’s true. The big issues in my part of the world include the plague of tumbleweeds at the cemetery and the successes of local high school students. There are more serious things, too. Drugs remain a problem (but I saw worse in San Diego) and poverty. The person who is alleged to represent us in Washington, DOESN’T represent us. I have only once heard her mention anything that directly relates to our lives but OH WELL.

We talked about the new law in Colorado that we have to pay for plastic bags at the stores. He was (as many around here are) outraged, and I just said, “Yeah, well, it’s a pain in the ass, but we’ll get used to it.”

“Why should we save the whales? We don’t have whales in Colorado.”

I answered that if he’d seen the trash on the beach as I have had he might feel differently. He made the connection from that to our outrageous landfill and an argument was made. We kept talking about the environment and he told me how incredibly careful and frugal his dad had been with everything. The upshot? We started out disagreeing and ended up agreeing. And to get there? I got to hear amazing stories about life in one of the San Luis Valley’s most remote and beautiful towns back when Norris was a kid (70s). He described a life that sounded like my mom’s in the 30’s. He’s from San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado, a place I’d have chosen to live if I’d seen it before I saw Monte Vista. It’s up against the Sangre de Cristo mountains, a smaller town than Monte Vista, very Hispanic and very beautiful. I loved his stories. My California stories and his San Luis Valley stories gave each of us more context for understanding not just each other, but the world.

“How do big families in California deal with their groceries?”

“Some people put boxes in the back of their car.”

“My daughter has a couple milk crates in her truck now.”

“Yeah. That’s what we did. We got used to it.”

As we talked, I thought about the first plastic grocery bag I ever saw. It was in 1982 in the People’s Republic of China. Our university had connections with a factory unit in a village that was making these bags. I thought they were strange. In China we went everywhere with String — oops, I see here they’re called NET bags — because that’s what we carried stuff in. Everyone did. I saw some pretty strange stuff going to and fro in net bags — even a kitten! And, of course, most markets were “wet markets,” which meant people might take home live animals to kill and eat for dinner. It’s amazing what a small net bag will hold, too. AND they can be stashed in the pocket of your jeans. Oh brave new world. All of Europe — well the two countries I know, anyway, people carry net bags. Some fancy ones, too. I’ve thought for a long time that it’s strange that the US hasn’t dumped plastic grocery bags altogether, but I’m as guilty as anyone of “Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death.” (title of my favorite Dead Kennedys album).

Kind of went off topic there, but it’s my blog and I guess I can do that if I want to. Anyway, the original point was that in our strange new world this kind of conversation — which, I think, is is an essential part of human life — seems to be a little more difficult to come by. I know I don’t wander around the neighborhood talking to my neighbors any more. We can’t regain our innocence; it’s gone. I don’t know… But like my plumber says, “If we can’t be nice to each other, what’s the point of living?” I’m going to keep trying…

18 thoughts on “Bag It

  1. I had to go to the laundromat this weekend–interesting place, but not my favorite. Woman is sitting there listening to something on her phone. The sound is very loud so she could hear it over the noise of the spinning washing machines. She starts cheering. I ignore her as I am trying to read. Suddenly she said, “That’s good they took her off the committee.” I knew who she was talking about but kept reading. Then she goes on about Kevin McCarthy is a good man and will probably put her on another committee. That was it for me. I told her what I thought of McCarthy and of all Republicans, for that matter. No unremitting sweetness there. Not my finest moment.

    • I don’t know, Lois. I don’t know what our finest hours are any more. I don’t get what’s going on in DC at all. It is not governing, it’s infighting and a continuance of January 6 and the little slit who “represents” my district in CO yesterday openly prayed for Biden’s death. I believe their endgame is the destruction of our government system and I’m afraid of the people who vote for them which would be most of the people around me. I did not need to know they were so stupid or so entitled or so short-sighted, but now I know. And I won’t know any differently because I’m not talking to them. It’s just sad sad sad….

  2. I think more fighting is normal with higher stress and apparently people behaved pretty much the same way with the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic that also killed millions. I think stress makes people rather hair trigger. Now we all understand the veterans and people with PTSD. Pan-PTSD, and we all have to relearn how to get along. Blessings.

    • Definitely part of it. Where I am, politics is also part of it though I think the one (Covid) contributed significantly to the flame of political rhetoric. My “representative” is still going on about it.

  3. Hey, if you can’t talk philosophy with the plumber and UPS driver, who can you talk philosophy with? It is kind of amazing what we learn to consider “necessities”. I don’t think the plastic grocery bag deserves to make the short list. I survived somehow before they came along and might be able to do so again.

    • Well, if I didn’t talk philosophy with my UPS driver and plumber, I’d be pretty bereft of deep conversations. I personally like paper bags. They’re useful for so many things, but that’s not an option.

  4. as someone who has been using reusable bags for 30 plus years, its no big deal to me. And i’ve gotten better about saving package wrappers, etc for when I clean the cat box. And the politics. I continue to minimize my watching, as my sanity can’t take much.

    • I used reusable bags in CA for years. Somehow when I moved here, they didn’t make the cut. No idea why. It wasn’t like they took up any space — probably just forgot them. That thing of filtering out this and that — I’m definitely doing that. I don’t want to be angry and scared all the time, but lots of people around me are hooked. I saw a guy in his tractor this past fall blasting Fox News. I thought, “wow…you go out alone with that day after day, where are you going to be?”

  5. Martha I love the dynamic of disagreeing/sharing points of view/ listening/ reassessment / agreement! That is exactly how our elected representative SHOULD be acting. Sad that you and the Plumber and UPS driver can do it but not those in government!! As for plastic bags, I have cloth reusable ones and don’t miss the plastic. It is handy for dog klinkers but we used to have a pail and a little shovel instead…

  6. We went to see a movie yesterday that I thought was beautiful — A Man Called Otto. Tom Hanks plays a mean old man that has his life changed by loving neighbors — immigrants and trans kids and old black people. Oops, should have said “Spoiler Alert”! 😉

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