Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Aluminum and gold

caleb.eckert's picture

In my last site sit, I had noticed the glass bottle and a couple of tin cans scattered about ten feet away, but I chose instead to look beyond them and admire the trees, the leaves, the sounds and feelings of the woods. After laying down to watch golden-red light wrap around boughs and seep into shadows—the same “liquid light... drawn up like sap” Abby wrote about—listening to birdsong amidst an electric hum from over the hill, I slowly sat up and quickly took note of the aluminum can sticking out from the leaves not three feet away. I glared. Soon others popped into my vision, and the following ten minutes became an “I spy” game for beer cans, empty bottles, and plastic red Solo cups. The strategy: look at one can and use your peripheral vision. It wasn't long until I realized, among the frozen brown leaves, how trashed the site is. I felt that the space had been intruded upon. Not particularly because this space is “mine” (I've been careful about not using possessive language), but because this isn't how one should be in a place—any home, belonging to anyone or anything. Respect doesn't look like shiny aluminum with a corporate logo in a forest. I tore out the closest half-buried mashed Budweiser. The bottom was stamped "17FEB00" (the “birth date”, the back of the can read). Who wanted to party here fifteen years ago? Where are they now?


It's in times like this, when there is an intersection of a short time frame (four years of the college student) and a long time frame (sixty rings on a blackened log nearby), that I think about what stories the flora here would tell. I think about how quickly I am here and gone every week, and how I am here for four years and gone again, swept away in modern mobility, while the forest still stands there, some plants left alone save for an occasional party in the more-or-less secluded woods, alone to feel the sun's last evening touch.