Day 23 - Clay

23 Clay.jpeg

Day 23 - Clay (2nd person I approached)

January 23, 2014 - I saw Clay picking up bits of litter off the sidewalk. I watched him carry the litter in his hands, until he found a garbage can on the street. I asked why he picked up other people’s litter. “I have a story for you,” he said. “I read an article in the New York Times book review. This was some years ago, and it had a picture of a dead bird that had consumed so much plastic, that when it’s carcass decomposed, the stomach cavity was filled with plastic. Completely full.” (this image may be disturbing - FACT CHECK: http://nyti.ms/1jqqRAu). “A few weeks later, I watched a young fellow walk right past a garbage can, and when he got about four feet past it, he took the lid off his cup and dropped it on the sidewalk. Those lids are one of the worst pollutants. The plastic becomes rigid and breaks into tiny pieces and then can’t be cleaned up, and gets eaten by birds and fish. I did my best to berate him, but it didn’t seem to make any difference,“ he says with a sheepish grin. “Then I decided, instead of being a grumpy old man berating people in the streets, I’d pick the garbage up myself. So that’s what I do.” 

I thanked him for helping to keep our neighbourhood clean, and for his contribution to making the world that little bit better, and Clay tells me, “There’s a saying that kind of speaks to what it is I do, or how I like to think of this. It’s from a Norwegian philosopher, and translated is something like ‘I went to my neighbour’s field, and planted it with grain, so that God might appear.’ This is my small way of maybe helping God appear in my world.”

Clay was born and raised in Langley. He spent some time in Manitoba and in the Okanagan as well. He is the youngest of two, and when I ask if he and his brother were close as children, he gives me a straight-forward “No.” We left it at that. A land surveyor by trade, in his later career, Clay became involved in the Labour movement, working with forestry workers. He is married, and has two daughters, both of whom are Academics. His face lights up when he tells me he has three grandchildren.

In his spare time, Clay likes to go to his cabin in the Gulf Islands and garden. “We had the land for years before building a cabin. It’s still not finished. A cabin is always a project, it never really gets done.” #notastranger