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The Spirit of Things

Island Life

There is a stack of used salsa containers that continues to grow on our counter in the kitchen. As they have been thoroughly washed and air dried, they are not growing anything from any former food residue that might have been left behind after the contents were consumed. In fact, the only extra on them besides the color imprint telling of their former contents, nutritional value and place of origin, are sometimes bits of the second, redundant seal and cap that refused to let go of the rim of the vessel part of the container when it was first opened. That thin sheet of fossil fuel based plastic has long since passed into the waste chain. This stack of containers that remains sits atop a similarly clean and empty peanut butter jar, which is on the counter above the drawer that holds the silverware and an open-topped box that holds the rubber bands that sometimes arrive holding a pile of mail together. And that drawer is above two drawers filled with reusable shopping bags that help to keep the number of folded paper bags that occasionally show up full of groceries to a relative minimum and are now waiting for re-purpose in a dark and quiet corner under the sink. I could go on about the bottom drawer stuffed full of a variety of once-used plastic bags from the bread and produce aisles, but that might seem more obsessive than it is.

But then I look up and see the stacks of empty plastic DVD and CD cases sitting atop shelves made from an old, solid but sprawling and unbending futon platform, and briefly entertain the accusations of being a hoarder. But the shelves are making order out of some of my chaos, and a used, folding wooden futon frame from Freecycle is now helping to optimize my limited space as well. The salsa containers at times are employed to contain leftovers, either edible or of a hardware type nature. They also have been known on various, and quite separate, occasions to have held bike chain degreaser, dried garden herbs and collections of pushpins, paperclips and wire nuts. As for the DVD containers, I am waiting there for more of an inspiration along the lines of Marcel Duchamp’s Ready Mades. He was of course the Dadaist who attached a bicycle wheel to the center of the seat on a wooden stool back in 1913 and gave rise to the found art movement. One can only anthropomorphize about the thrill that a plain old castaway object might feel, leaving its dull and everyday, single-use but purposeful existence behind to become a part of something phantasmagorical, beautiful or just something quite a bit other than its original intention in life. On the other hand, I have come to realize that if one waxes too poetically about the ecstasy of the inanimates, it is certain to bring one’s sanity into question.

It is comforting, therefore, to find others who find value in seemingly valueless things. It is even grander when the valueless are in some way made to become value-added, and especially encouraging and inspiring when the relative worth is compounded in a number of directions. Such was the case when I was introduced to the Feed Sacks to Tote Bags program as presented by Emily Wigley and C.C. Stone at a recent Green Tech meeting. What we learned there was that a growing pile of chicken and horse feed sacks at the Wigley ranch, more correctly known as Fish Bowl Farm, was getting out of control. Not wanting to add more stuff to the landfill with things that seemed to have plenty of useful life left, Emily dragged some bags in to her sewing table and began to experiment. The successful results became gifts to friends in the form of two-handled tote bags. These came to the attention of C.C. Stone who proposed a plan. This was to arrange for a recycle drop off spot for non-meat based animal feed sacks at one location that would be used to produce re-purposed products for sale to the public. This would create paid-by-the-piece work for Islanders and another funding source for the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness, as well as keep yet another stream of plastic from entering the landfill blackhole while providing a colorful, durable and reusable alternative to the paper or plastic bag choices that tend to end there as well. As has been the case in the recent past, my efforts at re-purposing myself through video documentation have resulted in a two part visit to Fish Bowl Farm that gives a little more background to the program, along with a full visual tutorial of the tote bag construction process. A single link to the Feed Sacks to Tote Bags Facebook page will take you to where you can link to the You Tube videos and ask any further questions about the program. That would be here:

As always, any inquiries going my way can be sent here: