Where is 'AWAY' anyway?

December 11, 2014  •  1 Comment

I was out shooting a couple of months ago when I crossed paths with a lovely woman throwing a tennis ball into Laguanitas Creek for her dog. The dog went wild with excitement, diving off the bank in pursuit of the bobbing ball. It would swim out, grab it, bring it back to the shore and give it a good solid chew before asking, "Do it again! Do it again!"

After a dozen or so tosses, the ball finally broke open and the ball looked defeated. The woman scooped it up again and said, "Not sure this one will make it back" and gave it another hoist into the creek. The dog repeated his graceful dive, and just before reaching the ball, it sank. The dog was feverishly looking for it when the woman said, "Oops. It went away."

Well, where is 'AWAY'? So often our answer to the question of what to do with things we don't want anymore is, "Throw it away." Yesterday walking to the mouth of the Drakes Estero from Drakes Beach, I saw a tennis ball on the beach. It reminded me of this story and a line that ran through my head, I've found 'AWAY'.

The view from Drakes Beach to the Estero is amazing. Insane rock cliffs glisten in the sunlight, guarding this pristine stretch of beach where you can see Elephant Seals, Harbor Seals, Stellar Sea Lions, Pelicans, Harriers, Great Horned Owls, and a bizzilion other animals of land and sea. But yesterday was hardly the beautiful walk that I have had on this beach many times.

The outgoing high tide left the beach a resting place for a mile of trash. Everything from cigarette lighters, to starbucks cups, plastic water bottles to shoes. There were oven mitts, rope, buoys, clothes, balloons, and truckloads of plastic parts of all sizes. And then there were the tennis balls. There must have been 20 of them on this stretch of beach.

My mind relaxed when I hit the estero and its miraculous beauty. I photographed a dozen different animals and watched the sun disappear over the pacific. My walk home was in the near dark, which helped me avoid being frustrated again by the mounds of trash.

I returned to the parking lot just in time to see a woman from San Rafael dumping out two large bags of beach trash into the can. She came to count wildlife for her organization and ended up spending her time cleaning the beach of its plastic load. She would need a dozen people for a week to do it any justice. But she wasn't deterred and went on collecting the trash despite the enormous task.

With all the recent press on the great pacific garbage patch, and the debris from the Japan tsunami, I hope we can all do our part to help our oceans heal. I hope we can consider the end to single plastic water bottle use. I hope we can all understand where 'AWAY' is and consider the impact our collective tennis balls are having on our environment.



Linda Goldfarb(non-registered)
Well said, Daniel. You've heard the story of the man walking on the beach and tossing back each starfish as he came across one? And his companion saying, "why bother, there are so many, how can you possible make a difference?" He then picked up another starfish, tossed it back into the ocean, looked as his friend, and said, "Made a difference to that one."
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