It’s called “See-Toe” or CITO, for “Cache In, Trash Out.” In honor of Earth Day, geocachers organize events to help clean up local parks and rivers. This was the second time my family and I have participated in one of these events on the Charles River in Cambridge.
The day was a little nippy, so fortunately they provided gloves–and T-shirts (for layers). (You can also see that I’m about to become the shortest one in my family! I’ve known this day was coming for years . . . )
There were about 25 of us, each ready to take a big plastic bag along the river and put in whatever trash we could find. It was a long, tough winter, and one might expect that the melting of the snow would reveal–what?
Actually, the river, with its daffodils along the banks, tree buds just opening, and geese swimming, looks pretty good already. But if you look a little closer, you’ll always find something. I didn’t find a geocache. But I did find one leftover stake from a tent, maybe a park festival last year. Wrappers, cigarette and cigar butts, especially around the benches. These are definitely rarer, though, than they were a generation ago when I was a kid. So are bottle caps. And particular spots in the river seem to accumulate trash. A soccer ball. Something that looks like it might have been a buoy at one time, before it broke free and floated down here. You pick up the big stuff and think you’re done, but keep looking and there’s always more. Snickers bar wrappers. Dunkin’ Donuts. Styrofoam, lots of styrofoam. It actually does look like it’s breaking down at least a little bit. I wonder if its ingredients have gotten more biodegradable than in the past.
Most of the group, except these geese, leaves me behind as I work on my little spot. But the sun feels nice and I warm up. An old church hymn comes to mind as I’m working:
I don’t know this at the time, but the next day, Sunday, we are going to sing this hymn in church. Some of my church friends are working on the same project, with another group, just downriver. Great minds think alike, I guess. Right now I feel like the lyrics have gotten a little ahead of us too. This river is gentle and tame, at least in this time and place. I usually imagine the Mississippi River when I hear this hymn, something great and wide and archetypal, a vision that might give hope to a person laboring under the yoke of disease, fear, or oppression. And there’s no getting around it: this hymn is about death, the imagery that of the Apocalypse. It’s what we all with our little trash bags and canvas gloves are working against.
This is what our whole group collected in about an hour and a half:
When we are finished, the river looks much the way it did when we came, teeming with early spring life. I hope we’ve done enough.