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February 28, 2021

Here & Now: A plastic wreath

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Here & Now 219
Here & Now 219

Mount Jerusalem. Thursday, 11.45am
I like to drive. It soothes me. I get worried about stuff.

Some people like to swim laps for relaxation. Some like to listen to music. Some like to knit scarves. Some like to drink red wine. Some like to mow the lawn. I like doing all those too (except the laps, and the knitting, and the mowing…) but for me the best anti-anxiety therapy is motorised wheels.

While some people are soothed by the strains of Mozart’s sinfonia concertante for violin and viola in E-flat major, I am comforted by the vibrations of a petrol-driven internal combustion engine pushing me along on four wheels. Or two (if it’s a motorbike. I don’t like being on two wheels in a car).

I’m not anti Mozart; in fact, I’m listening to the above-mentioned sinfonia as I pilot my Subaru Forester through Mount Jerusalem National Park. With windows down and the cool clean air flicking my hair, the music is a perfect soundtrack for this drive from Mullumbimby to Uki.

I like this road.

After having cruised through the green pastures, past the houses, and over the many bridges of Main Arm, and then having motored up the range, onto dirt roads, and into the forest, I’m in a good mood.

I think I just worry too much. Like, today, I was worrying about all the plastic in the world. Eight billion tonnes since 1950.
But, hey, my Subaru is mostly plastic…

This forest was declared a national park about 20 years ago. It’s a protected remnant, a reminder of what the country around here was like until only a few years ago. And what a beautiful reminder it is: tall trees, palms, exposed rock with lichen art, clear streams.

And plastic…

I pull the Subaru to the side of the road. Mozart dies with the engine. The silence, perforated by birdcall and wind whispers, is ominous. I walk to the base of a large tree where there are two plastic bags of rubbish and a hill of cigarette butts. It looks carefully arranged, like a weird work of art; a sarcastic offering to the spirits that inhabit this forest – that once inhabitated all the lands but have been beaten back to a few remaining pockets of safety.

This trash offering is a finger to those spirits, and to the processes that created us, long ago. Now, not only do we neglect the spirits and poison the processes, someone has laid this toxic wreath as if to mockingly mark the spirits’ passing. But, in reality, it marks our own demise.

One bag is ripped open, exposing more plastic, including cling wrap still clinging to a salad wrap, two plastic shopping bags, a disposable food container (looks like sushi), a plastic water bottle, ice cream wrappers, and four plastic forks.
Plastic. It’s in our seas, our soil, our bodies. It’s depressing.

I take the two shopping bags and fill one with the contents of the ripped bag. I fill the other with the cigarette butts. I chuck the three bags of rubbish in my car. I’ll ditch them in a bin in Uki.

In a way, I know it’s pointless; more and more plastic is being made every day and my three bag loads will probably end up in the ocean anyway (most plastic does eventually), but I’m taking this rubbish away from the forest as a sign of respect. It’s all I can do.

Turning the key, the motor shakes into life and Mozart resumes his fiddling. I slide down the range’s spine towards Uki.

I like driving. It soothes me.

Skating through a corner, I see Wollumbin, still sitting there, despite everything.

Before and after men, it sits.

Knitting wouldn’t be the same..


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