Spring Uncovered

The Link Magazine Putting Down RootsThe Link, Spring 2017
| by David Newland |

Springtime arrived early this year, taking me by surprise – though I’m not convinced winter won’t return. Then again, we might just plunge headlong into summer. It’s hard to know anymore. The weather is no guarantee.

But it wasn’t the weather that confirmed it was springtime. It wasn’t the change in the angle of the light or the snow geese flying north. It wasn’t the backyard flooding. To me, the single, simple sign of spring was pop cans littered along the side of the street.

“…my dad and his one-man pop can campaign.”

Whether they’ve fallen out of the recycling boxes or been chucked carelessly out of car windows or dropped by litterbugs scuffing through town, pop cans along the curbside are as much a part of spring as the robin’s cheerful chirp – though nowhere near as charming.
It gets me thinking about my dad and his one-man pop can campaign. My dad started picking up pop cans back in the 70s, long before anybody was recycling. He just thought litter was messy and he wanted to do his part. He’d pick up a tin, crushed flat and muddy, and walk around with it until he found a garbage can. It used to embarrass the heck out of me.

But Dad kept at it, refining his style over the years. By the time the 90s rolled around he was taking a grocery bag along with his regular walks and clearing roadsides of pop cans (as well as beer cans). He started picking up plastic water bottles as they became more common. “I can’t figure it out,” he’d say. “You’d think the kind of person who would buy water to drink would be the kind of person who would recycle the bottle.”

My dad takes no reward for his work except the few cents you get back on the beer cans and the occasional winning Tim Hortons cup someone hasn’t bothered to ‘Roll up the Rim.’ But he’s been picking up pop cans for 40 years now and, for the past 15 or so, so have I.
My conscience tricked me into it. Whenever anyone asked me what my dad was like, I would inevitably tell the story of him picking up pop cans. A guy who does a sort of awkward, faintly embarrassing thing simply because it’s a good thing to do – and does it perpetually.
At a certain point it clicked for me. How can you say you admire someone and not emulate them? I couldn’t tell that story about my dad anymore – unless I started picking up pop cans too.

So if you see a person walking along the streets of town, bending down and plucking a pop can from the gutter with two fingers, pouring out whatever is inside of it…and then again down the street a ways, and then again and again until he’s got two hands full – that’s me.

Or it could be my dad, depending what town you’re in. Or maybe, come to think of it, it could be you. It could be anyone, really, out there picking up pop cans—celebrating spring!