on being a better citizen.

Living in a city, it’s often difficult to feel connected with nature. Nothing has reinforced this notion more than a class I began this week: writing about nature and the environment. While I thought it was more of an academic course–one that focused on studying environmental issues and addressing them in scholarly papers–it’s actually a creative writing course that forces one to engage with the world around them and glean lessons from this beautiful planet and all it has to offer. But as I contemplated my future papers, which require me to (basically) sit in the woods and write in stream of conscious fashion, I wondered where I would actually go. Walden Pond is a twenty minute car ride away, but doesn’t driving to nature defeat the purpose? Will pumping gas fumes into the atmosphere really help heighten my connection with the natural world?

I decided to think locally. While Boston isn’t a forest, it does have it’s share of green spaces. In fact, you don’t typically walk more than four blocks before happening upon another park or cluster of trees, these glowing little respites within the city’s walls. So I thought that as part of my assignment for class, I could venture out to these parks and write in them. I’ll feel strange, of course, sitting with my laptop while beneath a bough of trees, but I will, in a strange sense, say thank you to my city by inhabiting these spaces. And perhaps I’ll stumble upon more of them. Just a month ago, after four years of living here, I found a new park, tucked between two apartment buildings. It was simply bursting with foliage, and I imagine it will only become more glorious as autumn descends upon us. I can’t wait.

As for that better citizen thing? Well, its kind of a strange story. I have a peculiar habit. When I see trash on the ground, I become livid. When I see people litter, I feel as if I could commit murder. How could they be so careless, how could they disrespect their community like that? I feel that no matter your surroundings, you should respect them as if you were a guest, because you are: we are all visitors on this planet. And as we discussed in class the other night, we are all stewards of this planet. So anyway, on my walks to work, I tend to pick up trash. It kind of skeeves me out, but is quickly remedied with a ridiculously hot and soapy hand-washing once I get to work. I tuck a little bag in my purse–often found in the gutter anyway–and fill it. I draw the line at hypodermic needles, but lottery tickets, cigarette boxes, and newspaper cases frequently find their way inside the bag. I can’t always recycle everything, but the mere act of picking it up makes me feel better about making the streets a tiny bit cleaner, and (hopefully) imparting something on those who watch me as if I’m crazy. Because I get a LOT of creepy stares. But just imagine–if everyone who watched me pick up trash were to actually pick up one piece themselves. Or if they actively made the decision not to litter. Or maybe stop using plastic water bottles. Or quit smoking. And on and on.

I love the idea of inspiring others, even if in the most trivial ways. And if we all set out to try and inspire others, or even educate them, then we’d all be the better for it. More to come on this topic, when I don’t have warm banana bread beckoning me from the oven.

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