Perspective – by Sethra May, guest blogger

Naomi Shihab Nye wrote a poem called “Valentine for Ernest Mann”. It is a poem about poems. In the poem, one character is ‘a serious man who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly just because the world said so.’ This serious man gave his wife two skunks for Valentine’s Day. When his wife cried, he said this, ‘I thought they had such beautiful eyes.’, and he was serious.’ The man really enjoyed the skunks he gave his wife. He had ‘reinvented them as valentines and they became beautiful’.

I understand that though Richard’s giant bottles are art, they aren’t considered to be a finishing touch completing the natural beauty of the national park. Though I’m sure many a poem could be found in the beauty of Richard’s giant battles, I’m certain that is not the reason they are there. They magnify a part of the park that isn’t pretty. It makes you look, and when you look you can’t help but compare the bottles to their surroundings. The juxtaposing effect is obvious. The way the bottles look so un-indigenous in the park make you re-think tossing your water bottle on the ground! It might even make you go out and buy a reusable metal water bottle.

Don’t look at the bottles and see them as a scar on the face of the park, look at them and see that the world isn’t a utopia. It is a balance between good and bad. A harmony sung with a million parts. The ocean’s melody pleads for us to help her stay clean, and Richard’s song harmonizes with the ocean’s.

Below their music though is the constant chant of the plastic bottles that wash up on the shore. Sing your song clear and strong, and I hope it’s closer to the ocean’s rush and roar than the growling of the bottles on the beach.

Sethra May
8th Grade Student
Bay Area, California
23, May 2011

I don’t like your bottles in the park

Click on the title of this post to read it and see a related header image.

A couple days ago I stopped to get coffee at a local market.

As I got out of my car and walked towards the door, cup in hand, a woman I know shouted out to me “Hey, shouldn’t you be out on the beach picking up trash?”

She was smiling as she said it. One of those smiles that says I am kidding, but not fully.

I explained that I wrenched my knee and was on the DL for a while as I recuperated.

Standing feet apart from one another at the edge of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, she said to me, “I saw your sculptures in the park by the visitor center. I don’t like them in the National Park.”

I’ve known her for a few years now, mostly bumping into her at volunteer events at the park. She is a long time Point Reyes National Seashore volunteer, roosting in West Marin when not at one of her other residences.

She is always pretty direct, in your face. She likes to get a reaction with her words.

The object of her disdain is “Thirsty?”, my collection of five eight-and-a-half-foot-tall plastic bottle sculptures. I spent a year picking up about a ton of trash off park beaches, from which I culled one item, plastic bottles, to create the art installation.

“What don’t you like about the sculptures?” I asked.

“I don’t like their aesthetic,” she said.

“Yeah. They look kind of trashy in the meadow don’t they?” I stated.

“That’s right, I don’t like that sort of thing in the National Park, it looks bad,” she said.

At this point I am figuring she declined to walk over to the art installation and read the 43-word interpretive panel explaining the piece.

“I’m glad you don’t like it,” I said, “neither do I. All that trash in the park is just plain wrong!”

I encouraged her, after entering the market, to ask the owner to stop selling bottled water. He has told me he is a capitalist and he intends to make money, consequences be damned.

I’m not quite sure she got the message of “Thirsty?”.

Tons of trash washes ashore on California beaches each and every day. Most of it almost tinier than the eye can see in the form of (raw plastic-nurdles), shredded Styrofoam pellets, packaging, toys, fishing gear, food containers etc.

Most people don’t see the magnitude of the trash problem when they visit the beach.

Magnifying the problem by building eight and a half foot tall plastic bottles apparently registered on her radar.

How big do I need to make these bottles to get on a majority of people’s radar?

We are shitting in our nest a toxic brew of chemicals nature cannot metabolize.

Please, use one metal bottle!

the coastodian

Thirsty? at Bear Valley Visitor Center - Point Reyes National Seashore