View from a Prairie Home

By Hege Herfindahl, Columnist

On my morning walks, especially in the spring, I see all kinds of garbage in the ditches of the township road. I try to pick it up if I am wearing gloves. Who knows where the refuse in question has been? In the best case scenario, it is dirty from lying in the dirty grass or on the gravel. If I am not wearing gloves, I make a mental note of bringing gloves and a plastic bag on my next day’s walk.

Mostly, I find beer cans. Teenagers, I suppose, out drinking and driving on deserted roads. Laughing and throwing the incriminating proof of their reckless experimenting out the window. I so wish they could be more careful. Starting to drink early is harmful and could be habit forming. And drinking and driving lead to so many premature and unnecessary deaths. But having picked up beer cans for close to forty years, I have little hope that the activity will stop.

Others throw out plastic water bottles. Is that also teenagers who again should know better, but don’t want garbage in their mom’s car? Is it adults, who are too lazy or thoughtless? Don’t they know that plastic will never decompose? Aluminum cans, however objectionable and scary because they are beer cans, do eventually flatten and somehow gets buried in the sod or gravel. But not plastic. 

I also find glass bottles. I always pick up those, even when I am not wearing gloves. Glass will break and puncture tires. They can also seriously hurt the wildlife that always scamper by on our deserted country roads.  I see footprints of deer, raccoons, coyotes and even beavers in the soft gravel.

Once I found an old sofa in the ditch. And plastic bags full of leaves. Those are not left by teenagers without a developed prefrontal cortex, but irresponsible and thoughtless adults who should know better. First they have gone to the trouble of raking their lawns and putting them in bags. Couldn’t they are least empty the bags, so the leaves could freely decompose in nature? We would gladly take their leaves. 

And, if they need to get rid of a sofa, there are places that will gladly take our discarded items. Here, our trash can be others’ treasures. A friend, volunteering at Prairie Five, bought some angels there that we then used to decorate the church library. Another friend buys all her decorating items at Prairie Five, calling them “Prairie Five chic.” I often go shopping with my daughter, Ingvild, at second-hand stores. Last spring, we bought colorful teapots and planted geraniums in them. They were popular at the plant sale at Ingvild’s church. Grant bought a spring coat in the same store for $2. It looks new and is worn frequently.

As I walk in God’s nature, I think of how we are stewards of this earth. We should be careful with what we leave behind. With our trash. And with our daily, often thoughtless, use of resources. Do we really need to drive everywhere? How can we heat and cool our houses more responsibly? When we go shopping, could we bring a reusable bag? Drive a less polluting car? Use reusable water bottles instead of always buying water in small plastic bottles? Try to recycle or compost some of our garbage?

Maybe it helped me to have parents who had to go without during the Nazi occupation of Norway. The stores were bare. They had to be resourceful, think of ways to reuse what they already had. And I bet many of you had parents who grew up during the Great Depression. They also became experts at reusing and being careful with what they threw in the garbage. 

Each generation stands on the shoulders, so to speak, of their parents. What are we teaching our kids? And what will they leave behind to pass on to their children and grandchildren? And, please, next time you feel tempted to throw garbage out your car window, think about what you leave behind.