Living in Scotland often reminded me of the day after the fair.
Liquor bottles and trash scudding along the streets and and everywhere there is that over arching feeling of forlornity (is that a word?), having to do with how the best things are past, and now there is only the memory of the glory days. A real feeling of despair, and it is curiously played out by all the garbage on the streets.
Litterbug? Hell yes!
Bill Bryson in his Notes From a Small Island described Liverpool similarly, like the city was having a Festival of Litter when he arrived, with the streets festooned with trash as if with streamers. Templeton the rat would have loved it here.
In fact, I think I saw Templeton at an actual fair, in Largs, at a Viking Festival.......he looked like he was having a grand old gluttonous time.....
Coming from California with our strict litter laws, this whole willy-nilly littering took some getting used to. As did the piles of dog poop on the sidewalks. This at least made for great Winter Sports, namely the Dog Poop Slide, pronouced sliiiiiiide, which called for frozen dog poop and an iced over road. Wheee! We got in a lot of practice at Dog Poop Slide, especially in the dismal neighboring town of Saltcoats.
We lived in a village called Seamill, really a small touristy section of West Kilbride. We were on the Firth of Clyde (that's the west coast of Scotland) across from the Isle of Arran. B and I used to walk down to the beach quite often, to watch the sunset over the Firth. The sand was surprisingly red and would glow as if dotted with embers as the sun hit it. Lovely. To reach the ocean, we would walk down Glenbryde Road and cross the A78, along a little trash-strewn alley and then out to the beach.
Directly across the A78 from us was the Seamill Hydro, a swank hotel/spa right on the ocean. B & I used to frequent the Hydro's Pladda Lounge for fancy coffees and karaoke (and once was really enough, especially with the drunken Hen Party singing 'Hey Big Spender.' **shudder**)
One day, B and I were walking past the Hydro, down the little alley that led to the ocean. It was the usual swirling trash eddy weather- actual little tasmanian devils of trash scampering along the ground. "High winds into the upper 40's, and the Trash Precipitation Rate is currently 87%." We came upon one of these dervishy whirlpools of garbage and B said something about how much trash there is in North Ayrshire, how people (generally) don't care about where they live, and where they pitch their garbage. We were feeling a little low. But what turned this all around is that B suddenly reached his hand into the whirlwind and pulled out.....a plastic shopping bag!
He bagged up every piece of garbage from the trash eddy, and walked it about 100 yards to a trash can and threw it all away! A good metaphor for life. God is providing a way out of my own personal garbage cyclones, even in the middle of the whirlpool there is a way out. Thank God for that.
Epilogue::Redemptive Analogy: Finding God's Plastic Bag in the Garbage
At the time this garbage metaphor seemed most relevant to us on a cultural rather than personal level. We saw the garbage bag as a metaphor for God depositing things within culures in order to redeem them. Books like The Peace Child and Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson speak to this idea of 'redemptive analogy'; that embedded in a culture is usually some practice or understanding with which to communicate the truth of God. So God already has things within the Scottish culture that are his God signs, or Christ myths and would lead them round to Himself. We were supposed to be ready, watching and waiting for these God sightings, and use them appropriately.
Camille told me today about the Aztec gods she was researching, and the Christ myth she encountered there. The Aztecs practiced human sacrifice. This I knew and never thought much about it beyond being horrified by this practice. Well, apparently, they did this to pay back the gods who sacrificed themselves so that the sun would shine. The death of the gods so that the sun could bring life in the form of maize and other crops. So the Aztecs are stuck 'paying back' the gods. They have the example of the gods sacrificing themselves for the sake of others, in order to bring light and life. I wonder why they felt that the gods needed to be paid back. I am so glad that God requires no payback, that His death that brought life to me came freely.
And thanks, Camille, for making me think! (Sometimes it's a real feat!)