Three months ago I moved into the Mission District and looked into volunteer work as a Reading Partner. I only lasted one week in the neighborhood as the living situation was not a good match for me. The one-week experience felt like I was floating in choppy waters, waiting with bated breath for the calm. I jokingly say, the Mission spit me out. However, with much gratitude, I landed in a quiet temporary place with a friend, while I found a new place to live. It was an awkward month of living out of a suitcase, while enrolled almost full time in college and working. It was at this time, while sleeping on a cot in a dining room, that I decided I was going to clean beaches as my community service contribution and so it began. But I really needed to find a home first!
Sea of change
At times I thought I was never going to find a place to live in San Francisco. I had sent many emails with no response. I’d drive to Pacifica and I’d park along side the ocean to study and hope that I’d find a place to live. It was then that it dawned on me that I really wanted to live near the ocean. Wow, what a novel idea! Here I was doing my beach cleanups, so it made a lot of sense to live near the ocean. The third email on a Tuesday was a hit for a new home and by Thursday, I moved in with only a nine minute walk to the ocean. It all came together and in a way that it seemed like there was some other plan I was not aware of.
Alas… I felt like my ship pulled into harbor and I would finally be able to settle in and embrace a new chapter – not just a new place to live next to the ocean – not just a new semester in college – not just new volunteer work – not just refueling my passion for publishing – not just creating a new visual art series – not just my counseling work, but a place where I could muster the strength from the ocean to be able to be an active participant in the worldwide movement to raise the consciousness of the planet.
Oceanic School of Garbage
Garbage was the other plan that I was not aware of at the beginning of September and revealed itself when I went with the flow of things, and now, three months later, on December 1st, 2015, I have managed to do approximately 45 beach cleanups and have written 20 journals. Like rising tides, the trash journey has been a build up to the next stage or eye-opening experience. I was not faced with a gruesome hypodermic needle the first time I found a needle – I was not faced with a beach with big chunky debris, or a beach littered with tiny micro-plastics (like today), making cleanups seem overwhelming and futile the first few times I went out. The universe prepared me for the next level of cleanup – as if I were enrolled in the Oceanic School of Garbage. And how appreciative I am that the subsequent beach visits didn’t have much trash but gorgeous sea glass that is “Kristine candy” instead.
I hoard garbage
It was just a little over a month ago that I decided I wanted to start collecting fibers and plastics from the beaches I clean up and create a visual arts exhibition, carrying on the Legacy of my “Gramps”. He also liked to collect stuff at Bay Area beaches, but over fifty years ago. I’d like my exhibition to display garbage as beautiful, while also conveying a message about humanity’s over-consumption and the effects it has on the planet. Sometime in the future, I’d like to participate in a study abroad program – in which case, I may be picking up trash at the Mediterranean Sea! Who knew I’d live in a room with a bunch of plastic and fibrous trash but I wouldn’t want to live any other way!
Water is swelling…
I have a beach cleanup troupe of two but I have this suspicion it’s going to grow over time. Ji has joined for cleanups and more is planned in the future. She overheard me talking about cleanups during my art class and it is now giving her inspiration for her children’s book that she is writing and illustrating. It’s in the works that I will become a “Beach Cleanup Captain” for the nonprofit, Pacifica Beach Coalition for Montara State Beach, organizing volunteers once per month, and I also get questions via social media from folks who would like to join beach cleanups as well. More the merrier!
Return to love
Jumping in and trusting “the wave” of life can be so scary at first but undeniably rewarding. Additionally, I feel as though I have developed a symbiotic relationship with the ocean over the past three months: I remove the garbage from it, while the ocean gives me the time and space to gather my strength to be able to assist people through negative emotions and return to love. I understand that my small deeds through environmental activism and counseling support can make an impact, and I’m hoping that I can inspire others to do the same through their own community service – as collectively, great change can happen.
Stay tuned for more… 🙂