Chronicling the Days – Elisa Robin Wells

Welcome to QWF series ‘Chronicling the Days’, specifically for this strange uneasy time of coronavirus and pandemic, of social distancing and self isolation, of lockdown and quarantine.

In April 2020, we invited writers in Quebec to submit a story – of a single day at this time, because while we’re all living through this time, we know that we’re not all living through it in the same way. To stay connected – to know how we’re getting on. Every story valid.

Submissions have now closed for the series but we’ll be continuing to publish the pieces throughout May. Keep an eye for them here, or join us on the QWF FB Community page, and let the authors know if their words resonated.

This piece is by Elisa Robin Wells, writing in April 2020.

Photo: Elisa Robin Wells

I have a confession to make. It might sound weird or even callous but in some ways I’m enjoying the shut down. I like the lessening of noise outside my apartment. I also like the lack of expectation to go or do anything.

Once I stopped working grocery shopping and walking became my only excursions outside. Yet, as I walked around my Cote-des-Neiges neighbourhood I saw squashed plastic water bottles on the edges of roads, tucked under hedges and littering every public grassy area.

Then I noticed seemingly endless empty Tim Horton’s cups, McDonald’s cups, and an assortment of plastic bottles and gloves. I knew I wasn’t the only one. A friend posted something about plastic gloves that were strewn about everywhere. It was even on the news.

Then I found reusable shopping bags and started picking up some of those empty water bottles. Within a couple days I decided to buy a picker tool and received it the following week.

Now I was prepared. I tied my hair into a ponytail, put on plastic gloves and with my grabber tool in one hand and reusable bags in the other hand I marched outside.

But what if somebody noticed me picking up trash on the side of the road? Wouldn’t they think I was a weirdo? Luckily, not many people were outside and those who were didn’t look my way or walked on the other side. Again, this shut down was working for me. I could clean up without people gawking at me.

As I picked up discarded plastic gloves I imagined I was stopping a child from touching them. As I grabbed bottles, crushed cans, plastic wrappers and containers I hoped I was helping someone who couldn’t leave their house. I dreamed of picking up every plastic water bottle and recycling them.

But, people did notice. One woman asked me where I purchased my grabber and commended me on what I was doing. When I walked towards a littered area behind a hospital a woman leaned out her window. She had seen me before and wanted to tell me what a great job I was doing. When I was heading home with bags full of glass and plastic a man on a scooter smiled approvingly.

As I turned onto my street the pile of garbage that had accumulated under a heap of cut branches was no longer there. The silver glitter of empty wrappers or stark blue bottle tops no longer affronted my eyes. I also know that when I walked back along the wooded path behind the hospital I won’t see litter everywhere because I had removed most of it.

Although I know I’m not solving our garbage or recycling problems I know that I’m doing something positive for myself and for others. After all, I don’t want to see dirty coffee cups, water bottles, soda cans or plastic gloves on my walk through a quiet treed area and I am sure other people don’t want to either.

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