Saturday, November 5, 2011

Reality is setting in

I've been dealing with my recyclables a lot today. I remember when recycling first sort of took off and cities began to offer it as part of their garbage service. You had to have separate bins for all your different types, you had to make sure each container was washed and I remember smashing your aluminum cans was the thing to do. I don't remember if it was mandatory or not, but everyone seemed to be doing it. Eventually cities got the hang of it and everyone stopped caring about all that. In Sacramento I'd just throw all the paper, aluminum, tin, plastic, glass, and cardboard I had in one can, sometimes still full of food, and just let the city sort it out.

Well, the good ol' days are back.

In order to recycle anything I have to wash it, remove the label, and smash it as best as I can. It's just one more thing in regards to my trash that I never anticipated having to deal with. For those of you who don't know yet, I don't even have garbage service out here. I have to take all my trash, in city approved bags that I have to buy, to, well it's not a dump. It's called a transfer station which I assume just means they transfer it to the dump. Their recycling program is not that old, only a few years I think. I'm not even sure their transfer service is that old.

It's just one more thing that has really got me thinking about whether or not I'll ever truly get used to living out here. Is two years enough for me to find a way to be truly comfortable in Machias? I realize that things like trash service and ethnic restaurants (or really, just restaurants) and coffee shops are modern conveniences that for the vast majority of human history no one had, but I've become very used to them. In all my years on Earth I've never had to go without these things. You think about all the stuff we have to take for granted these days and people wonder if they could get along without internet, or ATMs, or texting... but no one wonders about garbage service, or where I'm from, fresh vegetables, or even having to make your own meal every night.

Machias was first settled by Europeans in the 1760s. At that time vegetables in Winter were completely unheard of. If they heard me complaining about having to take my own trash to the dump they'd probably slap me with the broadside of a plow. But I still feel like I just can't get used to this whole thing. I'm here for at least two years and I'm not sure that's going to be long enough to get acclimated to a way of life far different then the one I grew up in. Of course, I've also only been here two weeks, have no furniture, have no friends yet, and other then walking the dog no real schedule. I could look back on this post in six months and laugh at how naive I was, or I could look back on this post in two years and think "Yep, I was right on the button there".

I totally get it, it's a different way of life, simpler. Even the trash issue makes it sort of simpler, in a lack of modern contrivance sort of way. Everyone here just acts like it's the way things are, but I know things are another way too. It's weird cause I am in no way roughing it, but I feel like if I was roughing it I wouldn't be having this issue. Like, I'm in an apartment with electricity, running water, refrigeration, heat, even internet... but I have to take my own trash to the dump!? If I was in some wood stove heated cabin, getting my water from a stream and getting all my news from the rare merchant that happens to cart by I'd probably think nothing of dealing with my own trash.

Ok, I seem to be making a huge deal about the trash thing. It's not that it's that big of a deal, it just happens to be the illustrative example of how different everything is here for me, and it hasn't even really snowed yet! I'm just not convinced that I can really settle here, that I can ever be at home here, fit in. I said that people really should live in smaller communities like this, that it's better for us socially and psychologically, and I'm not saying I'm wrong, but it turns out it's A LOT different then what I expected. City life leads you to expect certain things from your existence that town life isn't even aware of.

Well, here's to the next two years, let's hope it's worth it.


  1. So that is why they all drive pick up trucks.

  2. Well, welcome to the backwoods. It's actually kinda cool!

  3. They wouldn't have had trash there was no packaging, they produced almost all their own food, wore everything down to the nub. At the museum down here I was on the board of we had bags of shards and pipe stems and fallen buttons. And, you don't have to stay there forever. Here the transfer station takes the non recyclable waste to a trash to energy plant.

    Yankees have a saying: Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.

    I am uncertain what Machias' program is about, MECA has a book arts program but that is more about making books as works of art.

    And there was a document restoration place in Andover MA. You won't have to stay there for life.

  4. I have only lived 9 months in a city with trash pickup here -- believe me the transfer stations are much better than the dumps were. MUCH.If we ever meet I can tell you about them but hand gestures are needed.

    Usually there is a service that will pick up for you for probably a few hundred bucks a year. I love our transfer station tho. There's a section of stuff people don't want, and a place for used books. I find some very Martha Stewarty things there sometimes.