We don't do this because we are better than other people. We don't do this because we're out to save the world. We do this because we love animals and hate the fact that they unknowingly and unfairly ingest plastics and die. We do this because we returned three times to an exhibit at the Anchorage Museum last year (Gyre: The Plastic Ocean) and it was a call to arms for our insistent otter-seal-whale-shore-bird-loving children. We do this because we are treasure hunters at heart and feel that if we can instill some sense of beauty and fairness in our children it will serve them well, because, frankly, all our children and our children's children and our children's children's children are destined to clean beaches forever.
If the act is ingrained in their bodies, in their will, maybe the living question will grow as they grow, until one of them/some of them/all of them finally demand the right answers or solve the right problems. Someday.
Also, I will come clean right now and admit that we are staying at a resort.
(insert sad trumpet sound here, or mariachi band, your choice)
And here's where I could also insert a squirmy excuse. Something about needing a break from Alaska and having the ability to tap into my husband's 75-Zillion-K-MVP-Gold-and-Ruby-Studded-Air-Mile status; then over-describe the deep fatigue involved in accumulating this kind of mileage and his migraine that never subsides; then explain even further how we nearly cancelled this muy bueno trip multiple times with finger hovering over the keyboard in that forget-it-forget-it-forget-it-just-forget-it kind of way ... but ...
I am aware/feeling guilty/feeling conflicted/feeling malo that this choice makes us part of The Problem.
Cleaning a Mexican beach is penance.
And on it we found:
- enough plastic utensils to feed everyone at the Last Supper.
- and enough straws for everyone there to enjoy two mojitos each.
- and enough bits of powdery degraded clamshell take-out containers as proof everyone must have had severe indigestion.
- and a pink plastic princess teeth flosser, for after dinner sharing.
- enough footwear to shoe a family of 6, one left foot at a time, including a very teeny pink Birkenstock baby sandal that set some Grandma back at least $50, a kid's black Croc, and an extremely large black sequined flip flop, like, perfect for a 6'4" drag queen. (Damn if her sweet waxed and manicured toes aren't missing this right about now).
- 50 + plastic bottle caps.
- 20 + straws
- 30 + plastic soda/water bottles (Do NOT, and I can't repeat this enough, DO NOT touch the capped bottles half filled with amber liquid. That's either chew spit or fisherman pee. I'm telling you, just leave it there).
- a syringe, no needle (Everyone! Flip flops back on!)
- 5 glass bottles (Again! Everyone! Flip flops back on!)
- another momentarily frightening-how-do-I-explain-this-freakish-anatomically-err-correct thing:
Pelle: Hey Mom, look what I found on the beach!"
Me: "Drop it! Oh my God, it's wearing a shoe! Drop it! No wait. Oh. No, that's ok."
-that people ignored the trash at their sunbathing feet.
-ignored that they were swimming in it.
-ignored that they were walking by it.
-ignored the family cleaning up the trash, except one lady:
One Lady: "Oh Mah Gawd, are y'all cleanin' up the beach? Look honey, they're cleanin' up the beach! That's so nice!" Thank y'all for doin' that! Have fun!
Me: " .... "
- travel sized deodorants, shampoos, lotion bottles, jugs.
- a rusted barrel with sealed lid (not for touching).
- the coveted Lego piece, in "Patina Blue," discovered only once before, 6,000 miles away. In "Patina Yellow."
- that the teeny rip-stop nylon bags we started out with on the first day were full after 14 minutes and required an upgrade to in-suite trash bag.
- that the sun is so intense that most plastics erupted into brittle shards the moment we disturbed them and that this made us feel like we were making The Problem worse.
- that biting ants live in crunchy seaweed.
- that when we did the math, if each person back there came out and followed the Meissner "5 Pieces of Trash. Everybody." Rule ... it still wouldn't make a difference.
- that no matter how beautiful something is on the outside, there is always an icky underbelly.
- and that no matter how ugly something is on the outside, it still contains moments of perfection.