From Litter to Art

Bandon, Oregon is a little town on the coast at the mouth of Coquille River.   With a population of around 3,000 it has retained much of its original feel.  Its economy is driven by cranberries, cheese and tourism.

I appreciate it most for its peaceful beauty.  I have never found it to feel overly crowded.  There are wonderful trails, two lighthouses within easy reach, and both ocean and river to enjoy.

The high point to me, however, is the beautiful art on their pier.  I’m not sure what inspired it, but I can spend hours there soaking in the majesty of the wood carvings.  The brilliance of the large glass panels of sea life with the water behind them makes me think I am looking under the water.   Several times a year the pier rails are filled with art from the school children and adults of the community and you are allowed to vote for your favorites on papers posted on the outside walls of the snack shack.

At the far end of the parking lot, in front of an operational fish market and cannery is a piece you truly need to take a camp chair to enjoy.  The last time we were there it was a humongous rockfish.  It sparkled like a mosaic of glass worth millions, and I wondered how Bandon dared to leave this truly magnificent piece unprotected in the middle of a parking lot.  As I got closer, I began to recognize various pieces for what they truly were:  trash, collected along the ocean shore and repurposed in a mind-altering way.   Built by the town and the people who visit there, it reminds us all of the tragedy of the sea.  Trash is collected by beachcombers and taken to a warehouse in the center of Old Town.  There, it is cleaned, sorted, placed and painted.  Anyone can work on it when the warehouse is open.  Small pieces can be crafted and taken with you, or you can work on the next masterpiece for the public to enjoy.

What else might be in the ocean waiting to destroy a single fish or an ecosystem, and how did it manage to get there?   How far did it travel from where it first entered the water?   How much have I contributed to the trash in the sea?  

I start the drive back home with a foil bag of chips and a bottle of water.  How many bottles will I consume on my eight-hour journey home?  Will I recycle them or dump them in the trash?  Will I take this experience into my life, or leave it at the beach?

Contributed by Meridan P. of Seattle, Washington

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