We all have bad days. Some more than others. However, have you ever thought of how different a bad day might look, if you only change your Geography? OR, maybe just your perspective on that day?
When you are having a bad day, it might help to compare your crappy day with someone else’s bad day in another part of the world. Do you live in Yemen? Are you in the midst of a civil war like they are there? Do you live in the Gaza Strip? Have your relatives perished from their building collapsing after being bombed by the Israeli Air Force? Are you poor and unable to get vaccinated against Covid in India or Brazil? Or, are your children dying of malnutrition like they are in many parts of Africa? Was your home destroyed by either a flood or a volcanic eruption? It always helps to put your problems into perspective.
Recently, I’ve been lamenting the rapid change in my community of Bend, Oregon. People are flocking from everywhere on the planet and moving here. The traffic is getting bad. Housing prices are going through the roof. Graffiti and litter are much more prevalent than ever. The culture of the town is changing, and most would agree that it is not for the better.
I needed some nature on the way to work, so I stopped by Drake Park near downtown Bend to take a walk next to Mirror Pond. There was goose poop everywhere, which made me pay close attention to where I was walking. So much for relaxation in the park!
After fighting the traffic to get to the college on the West side of town, I parked my car and walked towards my office in Modoc Hall. I stopped when I saw a deer.
“How wonderful!” I thought to myself. I was just enjoying the fact that I get to experience some nature inside the city limits. What a breath of fresh air seeing wildlife here at work! Then, taking a few more steps, I saw what the deer left as a calling card. My day was just beginning to get a little more shitty!
After work, I really needed to get away! I decided to get out of town and take a hike.
I used to go just a couple of miles outside of town for some peace and quiet. Now I have to travel further and further; sometimes as much as 30 miles. I usually head East toward the desert, as there are just too many people on the West side of town and around the Cascade Lakes Highway. At first I tried walking one of the irrigation canals just outside of the city limits. However, a new homeowner just put up a sign, incorrectly claiming that it was HIS property, when in fact it belongs to the irrigation district. Annoyed, I decided to go further East into the real desert to get away from people.
Finally, I got to a dirt path far from town! I was beginning to feel more at peace, UNTIL I found something I didn’t expect to see out here.
I saw evidence of mankind….trash left behind by thoughtless people.
Luckily, I brought my backpack with me and I picked up the trash left behind by careless people. Being that I live in Oregon, I will be rewarded 10 cents for each aluminum can I pick up. I’d be happier not find any at all, however. With the uncontrolled growth in Central Oregon, once pristine places are starting to become trashed. On the road on the way out to my hiking place, I found a “Twisted Tea” can on the side of the road. Must be a twisted person to discard this in a beautiful place!
I think it would be an interesting demographic study, to study where what type of trash is left in which places. Documenting it and mapping it are the easy parts. Getting consumer demographic data from companies is the hard part. The corporations who manufacture these products keep the demographics of their consumers pretty close to the vest. I can say, however, that I find very few bottles from craft breweries strewn about the landscape!
I encountered more forensic evidence of humans littering the landscape. Several casings from shotgun shells littered the roadside. I’ve been seeing these in places that I never used to in the past. I decided to hike out of the desert and into another nearby ecosystem to get away from all of this.
I hiked uphill, where the desert transitions into forest. I walked along a lonely abandoned road. Finally, no signs of humans! Then, I found some fresh bear scat in the roadway. I put my cup next to it to take a picture and show the scale of it. Bears are omnivores, and although I have great respect of them, I don’t fear being in their territory. Cougars however, are another story.
Bears have a very poor digestive system and more than 1/2 of what they consume is easily identifiable when it comes out the other end. It easily shows what they have been foraging on. This was now turning into a pretty shitty day!
Further down the same road, I came across tracks of another animal. The footprints were canine. Not seeing any signs of human tracks, I expected that these tracks were made by a coyote and not a dog who was a house pet. Sure enough, a little further down the road, I found another calling card! Yep, it was from a coyote! The scat had the hair of its prey in it, probably that of a chipmunk or ground squirrel.
Hiking back downhill towards the car, I came out of the pine forest and back to the juniper forest, which is a transition zone between the wetter, cooler forest and the hotter, drier, low sagebrush desert. This area was BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. The acronym often is referred to by locals as meaning Bulls, Lambs, and Mines, which are the activities of mining and grazing that are overseen by this Federal Agency. I came to a clearing next to a large Juniper tree. The large mine field of cow patties around the tree was evidence of bovines seeking the shade of the tree. Can this day get any more shitty than this?
I paused here for a moment, and kicked some of the dried patties out of the way. I made myself enough room to sit in the shade of the tree. Then, I reflected on the day. I’m sitting in a space surrounded by a bunch of crap. But, I’m also sitting in the shade and have a place to myself. I’ve been dealing with crap from others all day long, but in retrospect, it wasn’t that bad! Even though things are changing rapidly in my area, I took time to be thankful for the opportunity to walk in nature and to de-compress. I took time to think about people I know who are dealing with much worse crap than I am currently surrounded by and send positive thoughts their way. I find that I do more of this when out in nature and not as much of that when I am in town.
I think the moral of this story is to not to focus on the crap that you encounter on a daily basis. Our world is filled with beauty, as well as some crap to deal with. One can’t live in a world free of dung! Just keep walking and kick it out of the way when you come across it. And be able to find a place of rest with it all around you. You have a choice either to focus on the dung or focus on the beautiful world that it is found in.
As I compare my shitty day with other places around the world, I feel blessed! Dear readers, the next time you are having a shitty day, I hope you can find a shade tree to sit down in the midst of it all, and to be able to focus on the beauty in this world and not the crap that is in it! Embrace the fact that we live in a world filled with dung without fearing that you will constantly step in it. And I hope your shitty day ends up being equally as good as mine was….