Reflections on rest – and rising tide of rubbish

Monday July 10, 2017 Written by Published in Opinion

After we immigrated in the 1980s from the United States to Canada, I became close friends with another immigrant, a Scottish elder nicknamed Boo.


She was a farmer, a painter, and a violinist, and one of the most beautiful souls I have ever known. She built a “wee” cabin in the wilderness on Atlin Lake in Northern British Columbia, where I was blessed to visit her over many summers. It had one room with a ladder leading up to a sleeping loft. It was situated amidst pines and aspen trees, just a few meters from the lake shore, and there were no neighbours for miles around, except bald eagles, black bears, blue jays, squirrels and an occasional caribou or moose.

Boo’s cabin was my resting place in the years when Dan and I constantly travelled the globe for The Virtues Project. The cabin is described in my novel, A Scent of Sage, as the place where the hero and heroine take refuge. I won’t be a spoiler by revealing what happens to them there. However, I will say what I loved about it.

It was always clean and tidy. Logs were neatly stacked for the wood burning stove. Boo taught me to sprinkle water on the wide wood planks of the floor as I swept to keep the dust from drifting around. A scrubbed varnished table made of the same planks shone with daily care. Boo designed and built the cabin herself with help from friends.

She slept in a sleeping bag on a window seat covered by colourful cushions she had made. The seat, which ran the length of the windows facing the lake, also served as a storage space containing her pride and joy – large wooden boxes she had made by hand, with rope handles.

Each held a different category, such as fix-it stuff – tools, jars of screws and nails, a can of wire twists (“You never know when you might need one,” Boo would say), and various bits and pieces in their own reused containers. There were roles of silver duct tape which she used to repair everything from leaky rubber boots to a drooping hem on a skirt. Another contained a first aid kit, lotions, soap, medicines and essential oils. Another, her tools and painting supplies.

I loved the perfect scale of that tiny, orderly cabin. Boo kept only what she knew to be useful or believed to be beautiful, including a few exquisite driftwood “sculptures”, one of which graces our home on Aitutaki.

All rubbish went into the stove, and she had virtually no plastic. She built an out-house facing the forest with no door. One could only smell the scent of pine. The ashes from the wood stove kept the drop toilet soil composting odour-free. Boo fiercely respected plant life, animals, the water and the land. She often quoted to me, “If each before his own door swept, the village would be clean.”

Perhaps I’m dwelling on the cleanliness there because once again on the beautiful shores of our island Paradise human rubbish is increasing. My mokopuna and I often patrol the beaches, carrying bags and grabbers.

Our bags are full within 20 minutes, with discarded plastic bottles and other man-made debris, which threaten to choke our oceans. National Geographic states the horrific statistic that 5.2 trillion pieces of rubbish have created the enormous garbage patches floating in our oceans, the largest of which is called the “Great Pacific garbage patch.”

The Bible says “You shall not pollute the land in which you live…” (Numbers 35:33) and tells us we are stewards of God’s creation. Let’s consider Araura College Enviro Squad’s motto, “Do you love it enough?”

Most Cook Islanders take care of their land with great pride. If each of us cleared rubbish from the roads around our homes and protected our beaches as well, the islands would soon be clean.

These islands deserve to be treated as the pristine natural treasures they are. We are all only visitors passing through. 


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