Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Respectable Recycle

I'm sorry. I'm a terrible blogger, even in the face of lovely encouragement from friends who really enjoy reading my blather. Time, money and inspiration are STILL lacking, so I'm being really lame here and posting something I wrote a long time ago.

Ulterior motive is I want to remember this, and I'm afraid Fairfield Magazine may not keep it their archives forever. This was a guest editorial I did that ran in May of '07. (To see the three feature articles I wrote for that magazine on the topics of autism, 9/11, and divorce, go to and type my name into the search box.)

One Little Piece

A few months ago, a friend told me he had signed up for a workshop in California where he was going to learn to clean oil off of sea birds. After, he would be eligible to be called upon during the next oil spill. I heard myself say, “I want to do that.” He said I could come.

Friends asked, “Why?” Why would I want to fly across the country to learn how to clean birds? It’s because I suffer from a mid-life malaise that I’m sure is rampant in Fairfield County. It tends to rear its head when I’m sitting in traffic on I-95. After I’ve obsessively run through the to-do list (“pick up dog’s medicine, order part for coffee maker, call about Tuesday’s play date…”), my brain goes kamikaze.

It happens in two parts: First, I begin to think about my own insignificance (life is a blip in time between two eternities, etc.), and then I get a bit embarrassed about living here in the land of plenty. This inevitably leads to the hard questions: What am I doing here? How am I contributing to humankind? Am I modeling a life well lived for my six-year-old son?

I, like many others here in Fairfield, really have no time to volunteer. That said, I firmly believe a creative person can come up with a way to do his or her little piece for the greater good. When that friend called me a few months ago, it was like he was holding out that little piece for me.

So I attended the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) two-day “Oiled Wildlife Response Training” in San Pedro, California, at the International Bird Rescue Research Center.

We were taught how to get a vegetable oil-soaked gull––found in a nearby marina, a victim of restaurant waste—washed, rinsed, dried and “re-waterproofed.” The big oil spills affect huge numbers of birds all at once, but the daily polluting from big and small ships and people along coastlines is a bigger problem. Just a drop of any kind of oil can destroy an aquatic bird’s ability to stay dry, warm and afloat.

As you would imagine, a supremely kind and gentle group of people attended this workshop. But those who made the biggest impression on me were the staffers who have made it their life’s work to save birds from the atrocious effects of human progress. Their stories were mind-blowing, and their triumphs awesome.

It’s not that there aren’t other pressing issues out there, but someone has to clean up these birds or they die. This one little piece has to be taken care of. The good news is that with enough intelligence and compassion, all the little pieces out there can be cared for.

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