Do you want to know what the single most littered item is? The beverage container. Whether plastic or glass bottles, aluminum cans, or paper or styrofoam cups, the disposable beverage container is the item littered more commonly than any other, and the creek has an almost limitless amount of them half submerged in tepid water or caught in the cattails. Plastic bags might come in second, wrapped intricately as they are around so, so many bushes and tree branches, billowing like flags in the wind. There are an awful lot of empty cigarette packages out there, too, and single serving food wrappers, paper, newsprint and otherwise, and soggy cardboard boxes. After that the detritus becomes more random and weird -- milk jugs, roof shingles (well, this has been a windy winter) styrofoam everything, motor oil bottles, broken toys, lost surveyor's equipment.
It was unseasonably warm and sunny Tuesday, so I decided to finally get around to cleaning up in the field. I was afraid at first that my effort might be unnecessary, since I had seen a sign for a neighborhood cleanup that happened recently. But whether they cleaned up the field or not, whether they did a good job or not, it's been windy. Progress was slow while the trash bags quickly increased in girth and weight. I filled three bags before the light faded and I resolved to return the next day to finish covering the trails. It was warm again on Wednesday, and I filled another three bags. I also found a second small patch of myrtle spurge, this one on the pretty, grassy hill overlooking Mayfair Park, where I also discovered an outcropping of sandstone whose fine, wavelike texture was highlighted by the slanting sun.
I pulled the weeds and then discovered a large, orange piece of equipment of mysterious origin and function. It had four legs that folded out (with difficulty, as they were bent and rusted) so that a central stalk could stand alone, displaying a small circle of orange steel about six feet high. I don't know what it was, but it looked like who ever was using it probably folded it up and laid it down, intending to fetch it later, but then couldn't find it, or only realized the truck was short one big orange thing when he got back to the office. It's dangerous to set tools down on the prairie, even big, brightly painted ones. I considered leaving it, but then decided it was my duty to remove it. Let the city dispose of it, or, if it was supposed to be there, the city could return it and in doing so give some poor open space worker a task with which to consume time and justify his employment. It was heavy. I noticed an old snag in the middle of the field that raptors have frequently perched on in the past has fallen over recently, no doubt during one of this winter's wind storms. I saw a hawk perching instead in one of the trees bordering the field, in someone's backyard.
Oh, as I was cleaning the creek near the road, a policeman happened to be patrolling by. He said "Good work!" and that made me feel all warm and fuzzy. Those with the power to intimidate me also have the power to validate me.