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Volume 15, Issue 22 ~ May 31 - June 6, 2007

Bay Reflections

Another Year Older, Another Trip to the Dump

by Elisavietta Ritchie

You must prepare to trip more than the light fantastic to the county dump even on a birthday, and not just for the inherent symbolism.

Before my annual outing to unload baggage of an old year, I celebrate with a huge feast of friends old and new.

Last year’s birthday party started with musicians, competing classical and folk. Drummers and guitarists played in the garden, classical musicians on cellos and violins in the garage with great acoustics.

Each year a poet recites in the gazebo. Other poets read under the cedars, little girls recite their first poems under the water oak and novelists peddle new books by the marsh. Friends fall in love and overboard from the leaky canoe into the cove.

The party may go on, like a three-day Greek wedding, as friends and friends-of-friends and neighbors-of-neighbors turn up with their talents. Some stay to help clean up.

Nonetheless, the host must deal with the aftermath. High time to toss dead blossoms, scrape forgotten plates, retrieve forgotten sunhats, waterlogged shirts and shoes. The fox would lug them to the garden.

Scents recall spent pleasures.

Industrial-strength, 30-gallon trash bags gleam like anthracite, overflow the house.

The yellow recycling box is a cornucopia of bottles, flasks, crushed cans. Old newspapers pile, destined to uphold future news.

The compost bin is crammed with sunbursts of orange peels and carrot scraping: raccoons will celebrate. No compost to the dump; compost becomes mulch for the garden.

Unidentifiable, unsalvageable lost clothing will find new lives, or at least new owners, via the Clothing Recyclables Bin.

Half-read books go in the stack for the perennial second-hand used book sales that help support the library and nourish our minds.

Trouble is, one always acquires more books. At Second Look Books in Prince Frederick, Annapolis Bookstore on Randall Street, the Calvert Marine Museum or Bay Books in St. Mary’s County for new books, some tome always catches the eye, be it on birds or boats or Buddhism.

Friends bring more books. One must buy books one’s friends have written, whether about a farmer-ancestor on the Eastern Shore, a no-longer obscure Maryland writer or the latest underwater archaeological discovery (ancient fossil or battered pirate vessel) in the Chesapeake.

Cleaning off the desk for a trip to the dump is an archaeological adventure, a geological excavation. Old manuscripts one can rewrite, old bills discard, but old loves keep forever.

Going to the county dump is more than a necessary nuisance. The dump is a meeting place for politicians and photographers, painters and poets. Locomotive-size metal rectangles glean with shining black or white plastic bags; bins glisten with rainbows of cans.

Underneath one bin: a litter of marmalade kittens. Their vigilant mother polices the rodents.

Over years, the sanitary engineers who are the guardians of the dump become friends.

Still, the Dump Run is one more chore.

Yet it is a matter of attitude. Some of us who have doppelgangers — another self who cooks, writes checks, hangs out the wash, takes out the trash — send a double to the dump instead.

World-traveling writer and author of 14 books of poetry and short stories, Elisavietta Ritchie splits her time between Washington, D.C., and a cove off the Patuxent. She last reflected on April 12 (Vol. xv, No. 15) on planting apple trees.

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