Abundance and the Landfill


Abundance and the Landfill


             We have been notified that our landfill will close in April. Whenever I go there now, I am even more aware of the piles - small hills and hills - of waste and excess and cast-aside things that have seen their day, at least according to someone's standard. Sometimes I wonder what all this will do to the soil as it slowly disintegrates and who will find it all in centuries to come and what will it tell them of us?

          Sober thoughts for Christmas, though it's after Christmas now, and we have had our abundance.  This year, along with material abundance, which we attempt to lessen every year and yet it still seems abundant, we chose and enjoyed abundance of time. We did not rush to visit, nor to have visitors; we were leisurely in mornings and evenings, and slept longer. Most days of the season we were able to snowshoe or ski for a couple of hours. The beauty of how the snow stayed on the trees as we went through silent woods not only wasn't boring; it was positively nourishing, a restful break from noise while bodies were moving with healthy vigor. Without work commitments, time slowed down and we were slow to fill it up.

          The word "abundance" seemed to occur often in our conversations over the past month. I read somewhere during this time that the earth at this moment has the capacity to feed all people and animals who live on the planet, if those of us who have more than others would agree to have less. Though I have heard this often before, I was particularly stirred by it this season as I heard more and more people complain about having too much food, too many presents to give and even receive, and that much of what they received they didn't really want. The escalating phenomenon of Boxing Week sales tips this materialistic culture just over the edge of acceptable.

          There are abundances that we need more than the kind that overflows the landfill. (This word always makes me want to ask why the land needs to be filled - but it's not the land's need - it's ours.) We need an abundance of slow time, an abundance of rest and the nurturing silence of nature. We need an abundance of peace in our relationships and respect for the differences that divide us and don't need to. We need an abundance of creative expression, the kind that satisfies the soul beyond anything material possessions can ever do. We need healthy food and the occasional feast, not a continual one. These abundances won't be filling the landfills until they have to be closed.

          This year, when I asked a friend of mine what she was giving people for Christmas, she surprised me by saying that she was giving time. She was offering her full attentive presence to people she loved but never had enough time with. Another friend gave trees, this year - certificates of planting in the friend's name, trees that could actually be visited and that gave to the earth as well as the person. A third gave time by making something that the person needed, like a walking stick.

          The overflowing landfills surrounding us formulate a question, at least for me: how can we de-escalate our material use of the earth and yet enjoy an abundance that has longer lasting effects than clothes, electronics, furniture or toys?

try this:  Look around your own living space and see what might be little used and yet taking up space. How can you recycle it rather than make it trash? What can you give away and thereby open the space for a more satisfying abundance?