Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cleaning the Menomonee River in Solitude

Down in the “canyon” of the Menomonee all is still, quiet, and suddenly warm. The warmth is a combination of bright, almost liquid sunshine and the peaceful feeling that the stillness brings. I shouldn’t be surprised, with all my previous experiences in this very place. Nevertheless, I am surprised -- and charmed all over again.

The low, distant murmur of traffic doesn’t disturb the mood. The occasional jet overhead is but a brief interruption. Only one tiny detail mars my reverie. A plastic grocery bag, caught high in tree branches above the rim of the bluff, where a steady wind whips it fiercely, snaps like a flag. Unfortunately a fitting symbol, it reminds me of my purpose.

This time I haven’t come to the river for my normal dose of urban wilderness. Earth Day is upon us and I am here to clean the river. The annual River Clean Up, sponsored by Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Menomonee Valley Partners and others, has brought hundreds (perhaps more) to many parts of the watershed to help.

I’ve attended each of the last ten such clean ups, but this is the first time I’ve found myself alone with the river –and the trash! Sadly, there is plenty for me to collect, as per usual after the spring thaw has revealed the detritus left from wintry months and runoff.

But could there be a more fitting moment for me to inaugurate a new Urban Wilderness blog? Here I am, at peace once again with the river and helping to clean it at the same time.

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