Old Broken Bicycles
One of my favourite songs by Tom Waits is Old Broken Bicycles. The lyrics start out,
Old busted chains,
Rusted handle bars
Out in the rain.
Have an orphanage for
these things that nobody
Wants any more
September’s reminding July
It’s time to be saying … good-bye.
Summer is gone,
But our love will remain.
Like old broken bicycles
Left out in the rain.
As a result of this song I started noticing all the bikes that people left behind for some reason. It became a bit of a photo project. In a big city you will often see them, still locked to a pole, slowly being stripped of the essentials. It’s incredibly sad. As I photographed them I would think of the possible back story. Who left the bike behind? Did they move away, did they just stop wanting the bike, stop caring?
This song came to mind lately as I considered what to do with a lovely set of antique dishes sitting in my garage. The set was designed by Theodore Haviland and is called Limoges. It was quite the thing in its day. The set I have was my grandmother’s good set for special occasions. It is also quite fragile and shouldn’t be put in the dishwasher. I have held on to it because I think it is absolutely gorgeous but I was afraid if I started using it the pieces would fall apart in my hands. So I thought maybe a collector might want it and it might have some value. Selling on Ebay was a total bust. Not even a nibble. I tried an antique dealer that specializes in dishes. Completely not interested. So what was I to do with an in complete set of antique dishes? In the end I have decided to just start using them. If they break so be it. If the gold edging comes off in the dishwasher so what. At least they will be put to use. And when they do start to break, I will use the pieces to create flagstones throughout my garden.
The bottom line is we need to find new uses for the things we don’t want any more. We need to be aware that there is no “away” to “throw away”. Everything goes somewhere and the worst place is buried underground in a toxic landfill. Remember the movie Wall-E? We can’t keep using and disposing of things until there is no place left to put them. We need corporations to stop selling goods designed to fall apart quickly so we are forced to replace them. We need to really think about what we buy and consider if we really need it and if so, does it need to be new or could it be recycled.
That being said, there are wonderful initiatives happening around the world. There is a mall in Sweden where only recycled goods are sold. You can bring things in to be recycled and shop for something else that is recycled or repaired. There are repair shops opening up where you can not only bring in things to be repaired, you can learn how to fix them yourself. We need more and more of these types of places.
But the most immediate need I see is to figure out what to do with all the things in this world that have already been discarded. What really jazes me is to hear about initiatives like Precious Plastic,
Precious Plastic is a global community of hundreds of people working towards a solution to plastic pollution. Knowledge, tools and techniques are shared online, for free.
or this one in Columbia where they have turned old plastic into building blocks for new houses
or this one in Ghana where they are recycling plastic into roads and roofing materials.
Let me know if you know of any recycling initiatives in your area. The more we talk about these sorts of solutions and why they are necessary, the more likely we will change our relationship with the lifecycle of everything we own and have yet to buy.
And as the song ends….
The seasons can turn on a dime,
Somehow I forget every time;
These things you’ve given me
They always will stay
They’re broken… but I’ll never throw them away