If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one could easily prompt that many from me. With a good many being expletives.
The primary punctuation being question marks.
And repeated uses of, “Why?”
The photo was taken during our recent vacation near Hinton. Don and I had gone for an early morning hike around the nearby Sandstone Falls. It’s gorgeous there; one of our favorite places in the state.
We were excited to find the boardwalks being repaired and other improvements underway, yet when we reached the water’s edge, we found the shores covered with trash. Busted Styrofoam coolers. Empty bait containers. Bags from fast-food. Beer cans and a bottles and empty cigarette packs.
The waters hadn’t been high from rains or flooding, so it wasn’t washed up from a storm, but deliberately left.
There are far easier places the litterers could’ve accessed had they merely wanted to fish, so for them to have traveled all the way out to those spots required effort and intention. They’d made that effort because of the beauty of those settings, which suggests they’re appreciators of such things. But once there, they had consumed the food and the drinks, and then walked away and left it behind.
It wasn’t a single person or spot. The more we walked, the more trash we encountered. At most, every naturally ideal place to sit was yet another batch of obscenities against what God created for us to enjoy.
It was as if the people went there, enjoyed the spot for a while, and then flipped the middle finger at everyone else. And then flipped it again — with both hands — up at heaven.
It reminded me of a time, a few years back, when I was trying on clothes in a busy dressing room near three teenage girls. Two of the girls were tossing their reject clothes, many turned inside-out, into a growing pile on the floor, while the third was carefully putting hers back on the hangers.
“Why are you doing that?” one of the slob girls asked her.
“Because that’s how my mother raised me,” she said. “Because it’s the right thing to do.”
The other girls laughed at her.
“It’s someone’s job to hang this stuff up again,” said Slob 1. “If you do it for them, you’re going to put them out of work.”
“That’ll be on you,” said self-righteous Slob 2.
It was such an incredibly stupid line of thinking I was stunned into silence. I’d like to think the good girl ignored them, that she continued hanging her clothes, but the raucous laughter that came from their direction suggested otherwise.
I’ve thought about that incident so many times since. I thought about it again at Sandstone Falls.
Are there people who genuinely believe it’s someone’s job to forever clean up after them, wherever they go? That they can treat the world like it’s their giant trash can, and some big truck will rumble by once a week and pick it all up?
I love West Virginia with every ounce of my being. I might not have been born there, and while I don’t live there now, I plan to return when I retire someday. So, to see the state disrespected in such a way triggers that same Momma Bear fury as someone wronging my daughter.
Accompanying that fury, though, is a confusion. A bafflement. That some of West Virginia’s people choose to do this to themselves is a puzzle.
Imagine a drop-dead gorgeous woman, one who maybe even has a vague understanding of how stunning and appealing she is, yet mars her beauty with ugly clothes she’s deliberately dirtied up and made stinky. She wipes dirt on herself. Tears out her hair.
It’s the ultimate self-disrespect.
If I were more knowledgeable of psychology, I’d suspect there might be something deeper at play. That perhaps some of those living in these beautiful places feel unworthy, so subconsciously try to lessen the beauty to better fit what they feel they deserve.
Regardless of what motivates the behavior, it’s painful to see.
The picture is worth a thousand words.
I’m at 673.
Look at it again and fill in the rest.