The View from Pelican House January 8, 2015
Some Thoughts on Beauty–
Shells, all kinds, broken, whole, barnacled–all of them
The ocean and how it never fails to open my heart, wave upon wave
A basketball pass completed from one running girl to another across the entire court
A mackerel sky, a butter milk sky, almost any sunset
Seeds first coming up
Frost on the windshield with the sun shinning through
The Eno River, anywhere
Many memories of days long gone
The fleeting present all the time
January, 2015, Salter Path, NC
I started THE LAST STRAW January 1, 2010. Five years ago I began to do all that I could to eliminate single-use, one-time-only, toss-away plastic from my life. Using Barbara Kingsolver’s ANIMAL VEGETABLE MIRACLE as inspiration, I began my journey. Ms. Kingsolver’s quest to eat locally for a year meant eating seasonally and relying on local farm produce. Each family member got to pick one thing as an exception—I think coffee and chocolate were on that list.
Being single, I allowed myself up to 4 dispensations. I chose my contact lenses, their packaging and the cleanser involved and the prescription drug I take for migraines which is non-generic and comes in an non-biodegradable blister pack. Everything else from chocolate chips, to yogurt, to take-out food I found a way to make, buy without plastic packaging, or do without. Often, I thought I might give-up, but here is the thing–I always found a solution, another way. Many people helped me on this journey. My yoga group cheered me on and did their own experiments in using less plastic. To this day, I think everyone in that group carries a refillable water bottle and brings their own bags to the grocery store.
For a full year, I did as I intended the best way that I could. I baked, I cooked, I shopped, and I discovered ways to live with out. In the four years since, I have not been as strict with myself, but as I look back I see clearly how that year changed my habits.
1–I always think, do I need that bag when I purchase something. Bringing bags into the grocery store or farmers market is a given. If I forget, which is not very often, I put stuff in my purse, carry it out in my hands or go back to the car. I have trained myself like a house broken dog. I know what to do and except for very rare occasions, I do it.
2–Eating out, I look for places that do not use plastic utensils or Styrofoam containers. In Durham, NC where I live there are several restaurants I just avoid. I do not go there. I am fortunate to live in a town with lots of great choices. A few years ago I became a founding member of “Don’t Waste Durham” , a group of individuals looking for ways to reduce the use of styrofoam in our schools and restaurants, permanently. Several members are working hard to develop composting for restaurants and homes. One of the initiatives on the table are reuseable take out containers for restaurants. Stay tuned here!
3–I have become a constant collector or plastic along our coastlines. I accumulate this everyday detritus whenever I am near large bodies of water and generous friends collect for me as well. One of my yoga partners, Grace, spends time on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts with an occasional Caribbean island thrown in as well and she collects for me where ever she goes. I have begun using these materials to make animals–mostly birds–currently chickens.
4–I continue to marvel at our over-use of plastic water bottles. Especially here in the US where water is predominately clean. When did we decide it was better to buy water, processed and formulated and put into a plastic (single-use ) bottle? In this vein, my work as a public artist has grown.With help from community organizations and interested citizens, I have made a number of plastic bottle waterfalls. The largest of these, PURIFIED:A River in the Desert, was in the Ellen Noel Art Museum in Odessa Texas and contained over 10,000 bottles collected by the museum staff and members. This fall I worked with Theatre Art Galleries and High Point University students to install a 3 story water Fall in the High Point Public Library and also hung a water bottle fall in a Winston-Salem NC as part of a pop-up art series sponsored by Piedmont Craftsmen. Two similar installations are planned for Spring 20015.
Currently, I am spending the first week of 2015 at a writer’s retreat on the edge of the Atlantic ocean, the waves a constant rhythm day and night, with all meals cooked for us and served on real plates using real silverware and the good company of 6 other writers.
The beach is clean and wide and I am happy to report that I have not found much plastic washed ashore or deposited on the edge. I have a small bag of stuff collected—a rubber glove, 2 or 3 pieces of plastic sheeting, 4 or 5 bottle caps, one balloon and maybe 10 synthetic ends of cigarette butts, the filters washed white from the surf and sand.
I have a job to do. Here is what I think it is: To continue documenting collecting and making art out of the detritus we humans create in the world and to live my life with love and appreciation for the beauty and many kindnesses I find here on earth.
Happy New Year Everyone. It looks like 2015 is full of promise.
Bryant Holsenbeck–January, 2015, Pelican House, Salter Path, NC