There’s nothing there

A section of boardwalk carries hikers across a wetland on a public trail across private land.When I was about to retire from the Navy and move back to where I was raised, folks often would ask why I would want to move to the north woods.

“There’s nothing there,” they almost uniformly pronounced.

Bingo!

Well, not quite but, relatively, close.

On the other hand, it was among the first states to mandate deposits — and redemption centers — for soda and beer cans. Redemption centers, where you could return the containers and receive the deposit, was the really significant part of the recycling effort.

When I was young, my brother and I donned trapper baskets on our backs and went in search of bottles. Small soda and beer bottles had a three-cent deposit, and large beer bottle carried a nickel reward. Not all bottles had value, though. The refrain upon finding one of the non-deposit bottles was to read the molded lettering on the glass: No Deposit No Return Not To Be Refilled.

On the last word, we would crash the glass against a rock. In retrospect, not very safe or environmentally friendly, but we were young and didn’t think that far ahead. We just wanted the money.

I thought of that exercise when six of us friends went for dinner last week at a small, nearly hidden, bistro. There were five 4-person tables, one 6-person table, and a few stools at the bar. Old world charm on the bank of the Damariscotta River.

Dinner comprised, for me, broiled scallops on a bed of spaghetti squash, a glass of dark stout — sort of a redundancy but this stuff was really dark and really stout — beer.

But one of the features to catch my eye was an offering of bamboo straws. Served with drinks that needed straws, which mine obviously did not, but I had to ask.

They were the size of regular plastic or paper straws, but reusable, “pretty much indefinitely,” Meredith the waitress-slash-bartender declared when I asked how long they were expected to last.

She explained you use a pipe cleaner or similarly-sized brush  to clean the interior, then wash them in the dishwasher. She added at the bistro they use a restaurant-grade antiseptic.

I bought five bamboo straws to take home.

There are some things we do that, when we find they are injuring other inhabitants of our planet, we should stop doing. It turns out, using plastics is on that list. And being 100 or more miles from the ocean is not, in this case, an ameliorating factor. Water is powerful stuff, and flotsam dropped in Marsh Creek will eventually be carried to the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s been a wonderful couple weeks at the nearly end of a two-lane, photographing a lot of sea birds — mostly eiders and seagulls — and hiking nearby trails in the watershed.

In several states I have found signs reminding passers-by which watershed they are in — which river or creek drains their rainwater to the ocean. The name of the watershed is unimportant, though they will remember it if they pass the sign enough times. Subliminal suggestion, it used to be called.

Some jurisdictions have gained public access through private land for trails encouraging walkers to experience the wild world. I have seen mink in North Carolina and walked on boardwalks across wetlands in Maine.

Meanwhile, wars are being waged over water and private companies are buying up previously public resources — especially in places where there is “nothing there,” hoping most of us will not notice. So far, it’s working.

We need more than bamboo straws to protect it, but they could be a start.

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