Thoughts of Spring

Changing Seasons in Vermont

Springtime in the country and my thoughts turn to … garbage. Well, not entirely. Some of my thoughts are about trash. There is an epistemological (or, perhaps, ontological) distinction here that I choose not to explore. Also, in addition to garbage and trash there are additional categories and sub-categories. Things that can be recycled and things which will be accepted at collection points only on special days. Even then, there are distinctions between what is hazardous waste and what is not. I was unaware, last spring, that the many cans, stacked in my basement, that were half full of latex paint were not acceptable on hazmat day. So I spent a couple of hours opening them, pouring in kitty litter, then stirring until the whole mess became solid. Then I took the cans to the dump. Along with enough other stuff to fill the bed of my pickup. And that was just one Saturday morning.

It occurred to me, on the drive to the dump, that back when I lived in the city, I never thought much about trash and garbage. It went down a chute in the apartment building where I lived and then a bunch of union guys came and picked it up. Unless, that is, they were on strike and then you, along with the entire city, were in trouble. (I lived through one of those garbage strikes and it remains one of my most unpleasant memories.) I gather there are recycling issues in the city now, but I still can’t image that my urban middle-aged male Doppelgänger would find himself spending a tenth of the time thinking about, and dealing with, trash and garbage matters as I do.

And in the spring is when it really comes at you.

There are, of course, a lot of things that just need to be tossed out because … well, because they do. They have been around too long and nobody has any use, any longer, for them. Never mind that you put them away carefully in the fall. The cushions that went on the lawn furniture have obviously served as maternity wards for various families of squirrels and they must go. Likewise the mildewed canvas lawn chairs. And the rusted charcoal grill. And assorted odds and ends.

There is, I’ve found, a sort of culture of trash and garbage here in the country. I’ve known the man who comes around to the house every other week to take away the debris of our lives for a long, long time. We call each other by name, give it the old wave when we pass each other on the road, and if I’m around when I hear him backing the truck down the driveway on the appointed day, then I make a point of going out and making a little conversation. On Christmas, I remember him monetarily.

I didn’t know, or want to know, the guys in the city who handled the garbage. I might have made nice with them if I’d thought it would keep them from going out on strike. But that was the mayor’s department.

I also have acquaintances (“friends” would be too strong a word) at the dump in East Dorset where I find myself heading on many a spring morning, my pickup loaded with stuff that has, through that mysterious process of transmogrification, gone from being neat or cool or essential to become … trash.

I kind of like the ritual. I pull up on the scale and wait while the man who runs the operation gets a reading. He waves me on and I pull down to wait for one of the bays to clear. I am not the only freeholder bringing in trash today.

I often run into someone I know, while I’m waiting my turn. So, of course, we make small talk. There seems to be a sort of ritual about this. You don’t talk about the other man’s trash. There is a sense (and, maybe, an aroma) of failure about the things that are in the bed of your truck. You didn’t maintain something properly. Keep it painted. Or lubricated. It wouldn’t be trash if you’d cared enough or worked hard enough.

After a few minutes, it is your time in the bay. You sling the things that have no place, any longer, in your life onto the pile of other discards. Drive back out onto the scale. Get waved into the office where you will pay the charge, get a receipt, and return home lighter.

Until the next load.

And there is always a next load. ◊

Geoffrey Norman is the author of numerous articles and books including Inch By Inch. Follow him on Facebook.