When I was 8 and 9 years old, two experiences forged lifelong impressions upon me eventually leading to a career in environmental “edu-tainment” through music and movement called Constant Wonder for children ages 3 to 8.
The first experience was Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson’s announcement of the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. I can still remember my Weekly Reader depicting images of how “we” the children of the United States could do our part to keep our Earth clean and beautiful. I showed the Weekly Reader to my mother who was the chairman of the Community Improvement Project (CIP) and she told me about a project she had in mind. A few days later we discovered a particularly polluted vacant lot in our village. With rakes, gloves, garbage bags and a group of volunteers one Saturday morning we transformed an eyesore to its once natural state.
The second experience was on Earth Day, 1971 when a poignant TV PSA featuring Chief Iron Eyes Cody created by Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council first aired. Chief Iron Eyes Cody paddles down a polluted river, drags his canoe ashore and stands by a busy highway where a passerby tosses his garbage landing on the chief’s feet. A single tear falls from his eye and streams down his cheek. The tagline was “People start pollution. People can stop it.” This award-winning PSA’s impact was intensified by my love and appreciation for all things Native American instilled in me by my older brother, David. Through his oversized books about Mystic Warriors, lessons on how to draw animal tracks and the distinctions between tribes, customs, traditions, and their love and appreciation of all creatures, I was made well aware of the resourceful wonder and historical plight of the Native American people. To think our collective carelessness depicted in the PSA caused more pain to an already downtrodden people was painful to witness.
For me as a young child, the North Fork was an escape from pollution or P O L L U T I O N as I would drawl in a low deep howl when seeing evidence of it on the side of the road or billowing from a stack. The Great Peconic Bay’s pristine waters and beaches were perfect playgrounds for an eco-conscious kid. There were blowfish, eels, weakfish and an . You rarely saw litter on the beach and the hideous plastic wrappers on today’s juice boxes were yet to be invented.
Fast-forward 40 years and I have finally become a year round resident on the North Fork. I couldn’t be happier to soak in every inch of this bucolic wonderland. I was also well aware of the My mother (a year-round resident for more than 20 years) had been policing her kitchen at family gatherings rescuing recyclables before their untimely fate with a “Wait a minute, that can be recycled” and “That can go in the yellow bag.” There was also no need for a transition period for I always considered myself a “recycler” of the highest degree using many of my household items as props in my concerts. There were cereal boxes woven into multi–celled hexagon beehives, toilet paper rolls taped together to illustrate just how much cardboard can be wasted when not recycled and blood test strip vials made into musical instruments. The one thing I did have to do was to locate the Looking back upon those days this past October I shake my head. All I really had to do was to follow the trail of litter on the North Road. I recently posted a video I made after a visit to the center coincidentally accompanied by foreboding classical music I happened to have playing in my car.
I commend everyone’s intentions to recycle and their desire to find the most effective solution.
I hope their intentions are driven by the need to recycle and not solely by revenues the Yellow Bags can bring.
Personally, I don’t weigh in with yellow bag or no yellow bag, Go Green or Vamoose. I weigh in with Mother Earth and I do know this. If the town is concerned with recycling and keeping our Earth beautiful I think it would be a good idea to address the horrendous situation right in their backyard caused by their backyard. is lined with and the lot adjacent to it littered with all kinds of plastic bags and paper. My first thought the other day when I was unloading my filled-to-the-top Prius with recyclables was “Doors for the Dump?” Seagulls perched in dumpsters flying off with pieces of paper in their beaks, a smaller dumpster filled with papers with its top wide open just taunting the wind to pick them up and take them for a ride. And the plastic bags! These plastic bags are just itching to escape, travel to the sea, invert themselves, fill with water and impersonate the sea turtle’s favorite meal, the jellyfish. The first step to a more eco-conscious North Fork is to find some way to enclose the back portion of the recycling center and to clean up the filthy lot across the street from it and the “Sitting” Duck Walk Vineyard.
I never thought I would see the day when a section of the North Road would resemble a highway in Nassau County. What would Chief Iron Eyes Cody say? I don’t know what he would say but I just know his eyes would fill and tears would fall.
Connie Gillies is a resident of Peconic. She is an award-winning songwriter and educator. Her CD “Walk with Wonder” is an environmentally friendly CD for children ages 3 to 8. For more information check out www.conniegillies.com, http://www.youtube.com/user/Songsmith15