From the youngest age, I learned to respect the ocean. I rode her waves, investigated her depths, and fell in love with her magnificence. I’ve never taken her for granted and now, many years later, I’ve learned the meaning of sacred reciprocity.
For the past few years, I’ve been picking up trash on the beach. At first, my eyes spotted the obvious pieces of water bottle caps, Styrofoam, ribbon, balloons, and straws. The more frequently I walked the beach, the better my eye became at detecting smaller bits of colored plastic that stood out from the sand and seaweed. I’d comb the swash zone for hours, getting lost in it, driven to make a dent in an epic problem. Eventually, instead of throwing everything away, I started to take it home. I used the pasta strainer to wash my haul, then I’d pour it all into a big bowl full of water. Plastic floats and everything else that is natural to the ocean sinks. Bit by bit, I’d remove each piece with tweezers and place it on a dishtowel, assorted by colors. It was tedious but gratifying work.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of microplastics washing up. My collection kept growing and so I started to make designs from the found objects. Using the tweezers, I’d place each piece with care, creating a physical poem that allowed me to talk about the suffering I was witnessing on Earth. The work was cathartic and healing. Once a design was done, I’d photograph it, post it on Instagram, then destroy it like sweeping a sand mandala.
Some mornings, I’ll wake up while it’s still dark and head down for a walk. It’s a ritual and a meditation where I’m between the sun rising in the east and the waves crashing in the west. The thing is, plastic never goes away, it just keeps breaking into smaller pieces that eventually become undetectable to our eye. So, I’ve learned to walk slowly, place each foot with intention, bend down now and again, like a prayer, to pluck the tiniest particles, as if it were a gem, ready to make another poem to honor the Ocean.
Originally published 12/2020 in Touching the Earth Collective