This weekend, I drove down to my favorite wildflower site by the Cowpasture River. The Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) were in full bloom, spreading a sky blue carpet along the river. The blue of the flowers reflects back my favorite sky color – as above so below.
I would have been content to amble around these flowers, taking pictures to my heart’s content and thoroughly enjoying the impossibly perfect spring day – if it wasn’t for the campsite.
Oh, this looks so idyllic. What’s wrong with people pitching a tent surrounded by thousands of lovely blue wildflowers?! But wait, they also had a generator set up with a canister of fuel right next to it – prepared for everything.
Can I ask what you need a generator for, out here by the fast-flowing river, far away from civilization, just you and wildflowers and the stars in the sky? Well, silly me, you really didn’t care that much about seeing the stars at night because you had the foresight to bring a string of electric lights strung across the entire campsite. So, that’s what the generator was for! And maybe you had a few other electricity needs; after all, you want to spend your weekend as close to the comforts of home as you can.
So let me try to understand: you wanted to get away for the weekend (there were quite a few of you judging from the four large trucks and SUVs parked near the tent site), enjoy each other’s company and sleep under the stars listening to the river and the night sounds. But if you keep that noisy generator running to see in the dark night, in addition to the bright campfire that lights up the place, it probably doesn’t matter that you can’t hear nature sounds around you. You have so much to catch up on and so many stories to tell while you are finishing the rest of your beer supply and the junk food spread out there under the picnic tent. You must have had a fun and boisterous time last night already, judging from all the trash I saw in the fire pit and elsewhere in the camp.
Well, at least the bottles were in the fire pit and not thrown all over the place. Were you thinking about collecting these empty bottles and all your trash before you’d leave? Or did you think that there would be some kind of automatic trash pick-up paid for by your tax dollars?
You weren’t around and I only saw two guys floating in a boat on the river… I guess you were trying to catch some fish for dinner to go with those bags of chips.
I want to believe that you care about nature. I want to believe that you were responsible enough to pack up everything you brought with you, your tents, your folding chairs, your generator, your lights, and – especially – all that trash.
Because you, just like me, probably don’t want to see bottles bobbing down the river or littering the underbrush or, God forbid, that exquisite flood plain plastered with those pretty wildflowers. You, like me, probably know about the dangers of plastics getting into the river or elsewhere in our eco-system where animals might swallow it or get tangled up in it.
You, like the rest of us nature lovers, probably have a strong gut reaction when you see trash left behind that sullies such a beautiful place.
So, I am counting on you guys to do the right thing. But who knows what can happen when alcohol flows freely – those kinds of concerns aren’t exactly on the top of your list when you are trying to have some weekend fun with your buddies. And when you are hung over a bit when you leave here, it’s easy to miss a thing or two, or it’s just too much effort to pick it all up.
And you know why I am wondering about these things? There was a smaller campsite close to where you pitched your tents. The people had left already and this is what they left behind:
Did they think they were doing the next person a favor by leaving behind all that cardboard to burn? And what about the soda cans and the plastic wrap? Oh, and there was a large plastic bag with trash in it hanging from a tree branch. Tidy enough, until an animal gets into it, or the wind picks up and scatters it across the short distance into the river.
I must admit I had tears in my eyes and an angry fire in my gut when I saw this. And maybe you can understand why I was concerned about how you would leave your own campsite. So I am urging you to take it all with you, including the memories of the beauty of the woods and the aliveness you felt being here…only leave behind footprints and cold ashes.
Is that too much to ask?
This post was created in response to The Daily Post’s Weekly Photochallenge: Letters.