Friday, May 04, 2007

Artist's Date: Desert Trash

As part of the Artist's Way and Vein of Gold, you are supposed to take a weekly artist's date in which you do something fun, something child-like, something that brings you pleasure. And it has to be done alone. I have a lot of trouble coming up with artist's date ideas, mainly because I tend to do that sort of activity with my husband. I don't mean that in a smug or sexual way. But if I'm going to drive to a museum or a garden or a concert, I'm probably going to go with him, or another friend, but not alone. So I'm working on this.

The Artist's Date is one of three spiritual tools for use in your work life including morning free writing in a journal and daily twenty-minute walks. I mention this because these are nurturing practices of spirituality for all of us, in all our work, not just formal artists, that allow us to connect with ourselves and the world around us.

So, yesterday for my artist's date, I went to a nearby park to take some landscape photographs during my lunch hour. But it was sunny and the photos seemed washed out. A better photographer would have enjoyed the challenge of adjusting meters and such, but I decided to change the idea and to take photographs involving the ground rather than the sky and rocks. Despite their purdiness.

So I started to look for interesting juxtapositions of trash on the ground and the natural world. Now, there is a lot of trash in the desert. The Desert is, in fact, where many people dump their trash, including pets, unfortunately. For a long time, I wanted to start a nonprofit that would combat attitudes about poisoning the desert with trash, but after exhaustive research into what it would take to run a nonprofit in Los Angeles County, I decided that I didn't want all of my energy to go in that direction. Also, there would have been sucking up to celebrities to get them to endorse you or come to your benefit. I just can't go there.

So I learned yesterday that the trash isn't even distributed in the park. Some of it rolls or is blown downhill and stays in the low lying areas. And some of it catches in the bushes as this plastic bag did. Plastic bags, of course, break down when exposed to sunlight and turn into a million little pieces of plastic. A plastic bag can take a thousand years to breakdown in a landfill, but out here a few days in the sun will decompose it. And I don't mean that in a good way.

Much of the trash seems related to drinking. Not just beer, though there is a lot of beer-related items, but also water. And then there's trash that clearly came from some event that didn't get properly cleaned up, like the Keep This Coupon and the raven feather. Clearly someone didn't keep this coupon. I wonder if it's from a nearby church raffle or even from the Easter services conducted in the park. If so, I wonder what they were raffling off?

Eventually, I thought that it would be neat (yes, I did use the word neat) to photograph trash in situe in such a way that it was disguised. This photograph of a yucca demonstrates the challenge of that. Do you see the trash? Hint: It's something that probably hasn't been around since the 1970s. A pull tab. Seriously, when were they last used? And how long has it been tucked at the base of the yucca? Decades.

If you'd like to join the Vein of Gold group, we are in the beginning stages. You can visit the group blog.