Accidental Dumpster Diving

I debated for a long while whether to post this or not, but things like this don’t happen every day, and when they do you are duty bound to write about them on your internet blog- otherwise, what’s the point?

So, here is the story about how I accidentally went dumpster diving.

hilly

Dumpster Diver

It starts with my little sister Hilary, which should not surprise anyone who knows Hilary. She is vivacious and impassioned, does spoken word poetry and poses nude for art classes. She leaps to life on the silver screen and is equally comfortable behind the scenes; she’s a force of nature.

She also has a way of talking about things so that they seem completely logical and reasonable at the time, when at any other time and from any other person you would be horrified/appalled/concerned/what have you.

While we were in Victoria last week the following exchange happened:

Me: So, what are you up to tonight?

Hilary: Oh, a friend of mine is coming over and we’re going dumpster diving.

and I was silent.

I was silent because a) Was this some sort of jargonish euphemism that I, being old and married and a mom simply wasn’t getting? and b) was this a thing? Was dumpster diving, (if she meant ACTUAL dumpster diving in every real literal sense of the word), was dumpster diving a thing like planking, or coning? I mean if you clicked on either of those links you really can’t blame me for being genuinely bewildered.

Nonetheless I was loath to disclose how terribly uncool I truly am, so I just assumed a neutral facial expression and said something like, “Oh?”, which was meant to show that I both knew what she was talking about (I didn’t) and was deeply familiar with the practice, having done it several times myself in my youth (which I hadn’t).

Thankfully she elaborated, and upon further discussion it became clear that no, this was not a euphemism, and no, this was also not the new thing. Apparently Hilary had been talking with some of the residents at the Unis’to’ten camp when they shared that they had saved more than 7000 lbs of food from the landfill by dumpster diving.

It was both practical – to save money- and a sort of act of resistance, a slap in the face to our wasteful, appearance-obsessed North American culture that throws out perfectly good food because of a blemish or a bruise.

Hilary had related this story to one of her friends a few days earlier, and her friend got all excited and then they decided to do it. Dumpster dive, that is.

So that was an interesting conversation, and I remember sitting there trying to suspend judgement (because one of my worst flaws is that I tend to judge harshly – others, and myself) and so I wiped my mind clean of any preconceived notions and I said to Hilary genuinely and without a trace of sarcasm, “Good luck! I hope you guys find something good.”

And that was that. End of conversation.

That day Olive and I accompanied my mom to a farmer’s market where Olive tried all sort of new foods and bounced around unsteadily to live music, it was a long day in the sun and at the end of it we headed home and Olive got bathed and put into bed, and mom and I followed shortly thereafter.

Here’s where it starts to get interesting.

The next morning I am sitting there looking like the girl from The Ring (which is how I always look in the morning), blearily sipping hot water with lemon (which, by the way, is a poor substitute for the coffee with which I am having a deep love/hate relationship lately) when Hilary comes in the door.

I am in one of the bedrooms but Mom’s place is just over 400 sq feet so I can hear everything. I hear her come in, then the rustle of some bags and then I hear her say to my mom “…I got a whole box of bean and cheese burritos, some salad greens and a bunch of other stuff.” and the sound of her loading these items into the fridge.

Now, at this point, clearly you know what’s up. I however, DID NOT.

Remember, it was the morning and I was The Ring and I was bleary, as I always am in the morning because I truly believe that I am utterly incapable of going to bed before 2 am. (I just can’t!) So I was bleary and it was the morning and I didn’t see Hilary or the stuff she put in the fridge and in my morning schlubbiness I remember thinking “Oh cool, she picked up some groceries on the way here.” and I don’t have any more excuses as to why I missed putting 2 and 2 together. But here we are. And there I was. Hours away from accidental dumpster diving.

That day we all went to the petting zoo and walked around and swung on swings and climbed baby climbing walls and walked for what felt like weeks.

It was another long day that ended with Olive screaming with outrage from the injustice of being in her stroller for the last half hour of the walk, so when we got home and after she went to sleep Mom and I were both exhausted and we didn’t feel like cooking and so she said, “Let’s just make some of those burritos Hilary bought” and I said “Okay.”

I SAID OKAY.

Agggghhh!

Needless to say, at that moment Mom was as clueless about the origin of those burritos as I was.

She put them in the oven and we waited and waited and five minutes before the timer went off I yelled “I can’t take it anymore! I’m so effing hungry!” and my Mom was like “But they’re going to be cold in the middle” and I was like “NO 1 CURR!” and I snatched the burrito from the oven and onto my plate and THEN. That’s when I took a good look at it.

It looked strange. The burrito shell was cracking and had a weird texture. I gingerly poked at it and a piece broke off under my finger. It looked gross and fake and entirely unappetizing.

I turned to my mom with great excitement in my voice and said “Mom! Are these gluten free?”

And she replied, “Yes!”

And I was like OMFG! As if a delicious bean and cheese burrito could get any better, I mean a GLUTEN FREE bean and cheese burrito? I had won the delicious beany cheesy burrito lottery!

I ate the ish out of that burrito. I ate it all and then ate half of my moms and it was delicious and savoury and I wanted like eight more but I do have some small shreds of dignity left in my life so I just ignored my fierce burrito cravings, gathered the dishes and started filling the sink.

As I was filling the sink I could feel the weight of those one and a half burritos filling my belly, and I started thinking.

“Hmm”, I thought to myself, “Gluten-free stuff is expensive. That sure was nice of Hilly to buy it for us.”

And then I thought, “Wait, didn’t she say she bought a whole box?” and I paused in my dishwashing to open the freezer and, yes, indeed there was a whole box of Amy’s delicious gluten free bean and cheese burritos, around 18 of them.

“Woah,” I thought. “That must have been expensive.”

I knew they were expensive because they always have them at convenience stores, and when you are stumbling around drunk at 2 am and looking for a snack and all that’s open is a convenience store and you are scanning the shelves for something healthy, you are SO gratified to find a gluten-free something that you will happily pay the $3-$4 they are charging for a tiny frozen burrito.

So all of that was sort of swirling around in the background of my head, while the burrito(s) swirled around in my guts.

Then it slowly began dawning on me that “Hey. Hilly doesn’t have any money, she’s not working right now.”

And then I started thinking, “Those burritos are packaged for individual sale, yet she somehow bought a box of them. That’s kind of weird”.

And then snippets of the previous day’s conversation drifted into my head.

And then snippets of that morning’s conversation drifted into my head.

And then other things drifted into my head. Things like …dumpsters.

I ran to my phone and texted Hilary.

“HIlary” I wrote feverishly, “Did you get these burritos from a dumpster?”

“Yeah!” was the immediate, happy response.

“I ATE ONE” I replied

“That’s okay, help yourself! There’s lots!” she wrote back.

“DID I SERIOUSLY JUST EAT A DUMPSTER BURRITO!!” I asked frantically, and I think the pixels of the words were probably vibrating with my anxious panic.

“Well it wasn’t really a dumpster. It was more of a compost..type…bin. With some garbage in it.” she replied

“So…A DUMPSTER!”

“The box was still sealed!”

“IN A DUMPSTER!

I threw my phone on the ground with great conviction and started freaking the eff out. Was I going to die? What had I done? Why had I finished my mom’s dumpster burrito in addition to MY dumpster burrito? Double dumpster burrito, what did it mean??

I needed to know why they had been thrown out. I’ll have you know that our dear friend the all-knowing Google was completely effing useless in answering this question. Googling “dumpster burrito” yielded a bunch of nonsense and then this gem, which of course WALMART:

At least I didn;t cook and eat a dumpster baby?

Google completely useless, my anxiety grew. I had to get to the bottom of this! The damage was done and all that could fix it now was the soothing salve of knowledge and curiosity sated.

I started texting my other sister Mawney. I explained what was going on and then asked “Why do you think that they would have thrown out an entire sealed box of gluten free burritos?”

“Because they expired?” she suggested

“No! I checked the expiration date, they’re good.” I replied.

We tossed around a few more ideas (thrown out by accident? halfway thawed and couldn’t be sold? gluten free stuff tastes like ish and no one was buying it? [this was Mawney’s suggestion, clearly])

Finally she had enough of my panic and said “Look, you already ate one-”

“-one and a half” I interrupted.

“Alright, you already ate one and a half, do you feel sick?”

“No”, I answered.

“Were they good?”

“Yes” I replied, truthfully. (I mean they were good.) “I wish I could eat five more.”

“Well do it! You already ate one-‘

“-one and a half!”

“Yes, yes. One and a half. You already ate one and a half and you’re clearly fine, so who cares? ”

“But why? WHY would someone throw out an entire BOX of perfectly good gluten free burritos?”

The conversation circled thusly for approximately thirteen hours and during every minute of that conversation I wished with my whole being that I was eating another burrito but also couldn’t get past the dumpster, and also the WHY?! Why did this happen?

Which brings me to the real point to this post, and the reason that I have risked my reputation by outing myself as a dumpster eater, WHY WOULD A GROCERY STORE THROW OUT AN ENTIRE CASE OF PERFECTLY GOOD (?!) GLUTEN FREE BEAN AND CHEESE BURRITOS?

Internets, please, PLEASE provide me with an answer. I am slowly descending into burrito-induced madness.

Yours in dumpsters,

M

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Bees Happy by Claire’s Painting on etsy

This is a story about a 32 year old man and his secret fear.

It goes a little something like this:

We were housesitting (as you know) and on our first night there, at this gorgeous house in the country, Adam, Olive and I took the three dogs for a walk to acquaint ourselves with our surroundings. It was one of those delicious summer nights that you dream about in the dark depths of winter – warm, still light out even at 7pm and with a soft breeze tickling our skin and bringing with it the sweet scent of clover.

And here was the situation as we walked on that sweet summer’s eve: Olive in a carrier on Adam’s back, Adam with Gus’ leash in hand, Gus and the beautiful black lab off leash, and the majestic Italian sheepdog being walked on-leash by yours truly. This is all very important information, you see, so make sure you have a picture in your head before we continue.

Okay?

Alright. So.

We headed down the driveway, dogs bouncy with excitement, and turned left to head up the gravel road. As we walked we passed a few neighbours properties, and one of them had what looked like a stacked beehive box on the edge of their garden.

“Oh”, I cried wistfully, “Look, Adam! Her neighbor has bees!” and this knowledge delighted me in some deep, soft-hearted hippie way, because as all good hippies know, bees are in danger of extinction and this is a big deal because honeybees pollinate over 1/3 of our food. So no bees= no food and no food= we are all EFFED!

(I am writing “effed” and “mother-effing” instead of their more colourful alternatives because I’m trying to curb the swearing, because this is a family blog, after all. Also, dear Olive is beginning to imitate us and it is only a matter of time before we are in the grocery store line up and she drops something and says, in a sweet little toddler voice, “Oh for fuck’s sake!” and ye, the eyes of judgment shall be mightily cast upon me and the tut-tutting from elderly ladies shall grow ever-louder until I am buried under a mountain of lipstick-stained disapproval.

So I am trying to curb it. The swearing, I mean. But dang, dang is it tough.)

Anyway, the bees made me very happy, and we continued up the road, me ruminating on fresh unpasteurized honey and the heady aroma of beeswax candles. The gravel road had a slight but steady incline, and after about ten minutes we were all running a good sweat – Adam and I with shiny faces and the dogs with their tongues hanging about a foot out of their mouths. Olive was squawking pleasantly in her carrier and it was all just delightful, as it should be on such a perfect summer evening.

The road started to go downhill and we found ourselves in the shade of the forest which bracketed the road on either side. It got very quiet, and all we could hear was the crunching of our feet on gravel, and the dogs panting.

Then, piercing the quiet like tiny fuzzy little drones, the faint bzzzz bzzzz bzzz of bees. Bees! Our friendly food-pollinators, those adorably striped insects which I am so passionate about preventing from extinction.

At first it seemed like there was just one or two bees, sort of flitting about here and there, and Adam and I remarked on their presence, something like

“Oh, hey. There’s some bees.”

“Ah yes, bees.”

But as we continued, their numbers increased, and one or two became five and then eleven and then what felt like dozens, dozens of bees. Buzzing and swirling about our heads and bumping into our arms and then Adam remarked to me something like,

“What the eff is with these mother-effing BEES?” and I replied something like, “I don’t know but it’s kind of weird, hey?”

But Adam couldn’t hear me, and the reason Adam couldn’t hear me was because Adam was freaking the eff out.  He was surrounded by bees – we all were – but he was surrounded by terror, also, and the terror was making him dance and hop and swirl in jerky little circles like a manic whirling dervish, and with each swirl he used the leash in his hand to whip away the bees and each time he whipped the bees he shook Olive in her carrier and between the bees and the yelling and the shaking she was starting to cry.

I started to get annoyed, because seriously dude! And so I said,

“Adam! Stop whipping the bees! You are shaking Olive and it’s making her cry”

and he, my 32 year old husband, this man I have known and loved for ten (almost eleven) years replied in a shrill falsetto that I have only ever heard once before in the history of ever, he replied and I QUOTE:

“I can’t! Madeleine I can’t! I AM DEATHLY AFRAID OF BEES!”

And I stopped, in the midst of the whipping and buzzing and crying and barking, and said,

“What?!”

and he repeated himself in an even higher voice that was doing that sort of air-gulping between words thing :

“Seriously, Madeleine! I AM. EFFING . DEATHLY. AFRAID. OF BEES!”

and I mean, what can I say? I was shocked.

I was shocked because you think you know someone! You think you know someone after all of that hand holding and pillow talk, all of that talking and chattering and yammering, all of those fights, all of those days and nights and dusky walks together. You think you know someone, and then this!

Don’t you think that would have come up, at some point in the last ten (almost eleven) years? Like maybe when you are watching My Girl one night for some reason, and you get to the scene where the dear little boy dies from being stung by bees, I mean wouldn’t you at that point maybe lean over and confide, “Hey. By the way, I am deathly afraid of bees.”

Or perhaps on your wedding day, in that oft-written about pause after the minister asks if anyone knows any reason why the two of you should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace, perhaps then one could confide in a whisper so quiet that even the minister couldn’t hear it, “Honey. Before we do this, you should know that I am deathly afraid of bees. Deathly.”

Or, OR more pertinently, when you are walking past a beehive one evening and your wife starts talking about how important bees are, and how she worries about the bees and how much she loves bees and beeswax and honey, and the absolutely vital role they play in our existence, maybe wouldn’t you maybe say something like, “Man. Those bees sure are important, but you know what? I am effing DEATHLY afraid of them.”

I guess what I am trying to say is that I was surprised that Adam had something he was deathly (DEATHLY!) afraid of, and even more surprised that that thing was bees.

So, I then did what any wife would do when her husband has finally, after ten (almost eleven) years, revealed his deepest fear. I mocked him.

Mightily.

He was losing his ish, running (without really being able to run, because of Olive, you see) and turning in circles (I don’t know why with the circling) and all the while, furiously and frantically swatting around his head at the bees with that dog leash and shrieking things in a high-pitched voice, things like

“Oh god!” and

“Help!” and

“The BEES! Madeleine THE BEES!”

And I was running after him, repeating in a shrill girly voice, “I’m deathly afraid of bees! Oh god, somebody helllp me! The bees! THE BEES!”

If you are thinking that this was awesome, you are right. And if you are thinking that this was not appreciated by Adam, not one bit, you are also right.

But as much as I love a good mockery, I am also a caring wife. So after I squeezed as much leverage as I could from the situation, I tried to help. Because of course.

“Adam”, I said calmly as I approached him, “You need to calm down. They’re just bees, but bees can sense fear, I read that somewhere. So just take a deep breath, okay?”

but these words did not calm him.

The swirling, whirling, leash-whipping frenzy continued and he kept hop-running and Olive kept crying and that’s when we saw it- him- Gus.

He was covered in bees! Five or six had actually landed on him, his snout and the ridge of fur running up and down his spine, and more were angrily buzzing around him. He was loping along a ways behind us,  seemingly indifferent to the bees and the yelling and general panic of our little walking party. But as he got closer, so did the angrily buzzing hordes that followed him, and so we started yelling at him,

“Gus! Stop! Stay there!” (from me), and “Oh goddamnit! No. NO! Go away! Go away you effing bee-covered b@stard!” (from Adam)

But the yelling and excitement was, well, exciting to Gus! “What’s this? What’s the meaning of all of this arm waving and loud voices and, lo, is Papa dancing?” I imagine he was thinking, “What fun! Let’s catch up!”

and so he started loping faster and faster and the bees buzzed angrier and angrier and the more we yelled the faster he came until suddenly he was right beside us, and just as suddenly we were engulfed.

THE BEES! They were everywhere. I could feel them bumping against my hips and my hair and I started instinctively swatting them away and whenever I made contact I screamed because had I just killed a bee? Had I just personally contributed to their imminent extinction? But also ohgodohgodohgod please don’t sting me! Please don’t let me get stung by a bee! Every time I hit one I just made it madder and the buzzing got louder until suddenly I realized something, in the midst of this swarming, buzzing hell:

I, too, was afraid. DEATHLY.

“Oh my god” I started sobbing, “We’re going to die! We’re going to die like that sweet boy in My Girl“.

And all we could do was run. So we both ran. But not really, because of Olive, you see.

I was crying/hyperventilating, and Adam generously handed me his weapon, the leash, and I started swatting frantically around my head and around his head and he was shrieking “Get them! Get them!” and I was yelling “They’re so big! Why are they so big?” and Adam was saying “I don’t effing know! Are they Africanized?”  and I didn’t know what that meant and all I could remember was that part of the Michael Moore movie where they were talking about Africanized bees and so I yell-hissed “Adam! Don’t say that! That’s racist!” and the bees kept swarming us, and we kept running.

I really didn’t think we had gone that far on our walk, but the house didn’t seem to get any closer with each hill we crested, and my feet were slipping in my flip flops on the gravel and Olive was bouncing around in her carrier and I just kept thinking “We are dead. We are effing dead”

Finally we walk-ran past the neighbour’s house, the one with the lush garden and quaint bee boxes, and as we passed them, Adam with the fear of God in his heart, Olive wailing, Gus covered in bees, me swatting the air with a rolled up dog leash, and the two other dogs looking at us like we were insane, I yelled at the top of my lungs into the sweet summer night:

“Fuck you, bees! Fuuuuuck youuuuuu!”

Ull’us

          

A year and a half ago I took three of the teenagers I work with on a three day camping trip to a First Nations gathering. It took place near a natural hotsprings, deep in the woods.

We loaded up- the back of our 15 passenger van stuffed with the essentials, coolers full of food, sleeping backs, a huge 7 man tent.

We drove for hours. The kids blasted the latest pop music, screaming until they were hoarse. I concentrated on keeping the van on the narrow gravel road, often washed out in heavy rains.

We passed a graveyard, a 100 year old church in the middle of nowhere, built by some of the first settlers, intent on converting the local ‘savages’ to Christ.

The building stood empty but sacred in a quiet grove of trees, white painted exterior faded and warped. It was untouched. Stained glass intact, intricately carved pews and pulpits stood silently waiting for words of  fire and brimstone. Redemption.

               

I let the girls out for a smoke break, they wandered slowly around the edge of the cemetary, spooking themselves with ghost stories, falling silent as they realized that many of the gravestones stood crookedly in memory of those who lived lives much shorter than their own.

Entire families lay beneath their feet.

The weekend was busy, a rush of pine needles and campfires, salmon caught straight from the river and dried by the fire.

We fell asleep to the sound of rushing water, awoke to the busy murmur of strangers.

A First Nations elder led us in a smudging ceremony, my first. He stood in front of us, two grey braids lying softly down his back, an eagle feather in his hand, slowly fanning a shell filled with burning sage.

“I don’t know what to do” I whispered.

” Wash your hands in the smoke” he told me, “Wash your hands for clean intentions. ” Lift the smoke to your forehead for clear thoughts, your eyes for clear sight. Send it to your chest for a pure heart, under your feet for a safe journey.”

I wafted the smoke towards me. I inhaled the sharp sweetness, bathed myself in its soft fog. I felt equal parts privileged and foolish. My actions were jerky and stilted. I wished for clear thoughts, a pure heart. I wished for redemption.

Later on the group wandered between different workshops; identifying herbs and using them for healing, a discussion about salmon preservation, guided meditation.

I sat down at the edge of the guided meditation group. A long-haired woman bade us close our eyes. She told us to imagine ourselves walking on a path, thickly forested and safe. It wasn’t hard, nestled within the trees and the river valley, to call to mind this peace and safe haven. It existed for us then. We were living it.

She asked us to imagine coming upon a door blocking the path, told us to imagine it in descriptive detail. She invited us to open the door, sense the resistance or ease with which it opened. She told us to look inside, what did we see when it opened? What lay beyond?

I screwed my eyes shut, imagining an imposing wooden door, I struggled with all my might to push it open and it barely moved enough for me to squeeze past the rough edges.

Inside was bright and fog, light emerging from something in the centre of a massive room, looming shelves crammed with books. The fog obscured something luminous and shining, but I couldn’t see it, I struggled to push away the fog but I couldn’t imagine beyond.I couldn’t make it out.

We were brought back. Encouraged to sketch our visions.

I felt frustrated. Books. How predictable. I felt like my unconscious was straining, trying to find something that wasn’t there. I left the session and sat on the stony river bank talking with one of the kids who was acting out, working through our day.

Each night I would go and sit in the hotsprings. The water welled up through the drain holes of old bathtubs and spilled over the sides, constantly refilling and renewing the water. I sat and spoke, listening to my words rise and disperse with the steam.

On the last day we traveled to a reserve a half hour from the hot springs. Old buildings stood ramshackle next to a street with 10 new built homes. Children gathered curiously as we approached, they were reticent and shy. I walked through the town, taking note of the only store, selling chips and pop. There was nothing fresh available, the nearest town over and hour away.

We attended a concert in the new school, an anathema, a shining institution rising up from the woods, dusky mountaintops looming dark in the background. A new method of conversion, redemption.

The auditorium filled with the thick smell of wet clothing and warmth. The pulsing sound of drums jarred the seats and got into our bones. It felt like a heartbeat and we were all collectively living and pulsing together, smelling like salmon and sage, nodding and bobbing along with the sound.

As we drove home the girls were silent. We were all trying to process the three days. It was one of the strangest weekends I’ve ever experienced. Clashing ideals of self-reliance and subjugation, man-made ideas rising sharply from natural contours. I couldn’t make sense of it. I resorted to monosyllables when asked to describe it.

I’ve never been able to make sense of the envelope of peacefulness I felt, sitting on that riverbank, watching the bright frustrated tears of a teenager. 

It was a handful of cliches riding meekly, a dark, seething undercurrent of rage and frustration. The trees and the church, the river and the school.

The faces of children as we passed them by. The graveyard as it faded into the plume of gravel dust stretching out behind us, bloody from our taillights.

” Lift the smoke to your forehead for clear thoughts, your eyes for clear sight. Send it to your chest for a pure heart, under your feet for a safe journey.”