Whole Life Magazine

April / May 2018

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Page 33 of 35

Waste Not, Want Not 34 wholelifetimes.com backwords FINDING HOME FINDING HOME I am sitting in Bodh Gaya, India, on a bench outside a doc- tor's "offi ce": a low clay structure with exposed syringes littering its dirt fl oor. Next to me on the bench is a mother dressed in a brilliant magenta salwar kameez, a baby on her lap wearing a tattered shirt that says Chicago Bulls. There is crust in the baby's eyes, just like in my eyes. On the other side of me there is an emaciated white cow, its back end inching closer, like it wants to sit in my lap. My eyes are killing me. They are literally hemorrhaging. I think of the Virgin Mary. The doctor calls me in. I remove the sunglasses I am wearing. He visibly cringes. A doctor in some clay room, 18 hours by train to the capital city of a "developing nation," recoils as he looks at me. "This looks very bad," he says. He prescribes eyedrops that burn like hell and do very little to heal my advanced conjunctivitis. But I recover. I spent just four months in India at age 20 almost two de- cades ago, but I can still smell and see and hear it. Growing up upper-middle class in the Midwest, I had never known such intense human suffering. I cannot un-see people with wild eyes and missing limbs who are dying of hunger on the side of the road next to marigold-strewn temples dedicat- ed to one of millions of gods. I had always been progressive and humanist, as well as an environmentalist, but the time living in rural India tipped me over the edge. "Waste not, want not," the old saying goes, and I go and go with it. These days I would rather eat mold than dispose of even a single expensive raspberry. "Are you going to eat that?" is my most common refrain. It's not just hu- mans who suffer the consequences of our wastefulness, as I learned in fi fth grade in the 1980s when they fi rst warned us about plastic. Dog- gedly, I cut plastic grocery bags into thin strips, wove them into a reusable tote bag, and slung it over my shoulder. It was a hit at school, so I fancied myself a leader in the fi eld of sustainability. I al- ways cut up the plastic rings that hold six packs. "Have you even seen what these things do to birds and turtles?" I huffed to my unenlightened dad, who still threw them into the gar- bage intact. I fi shed them out, cut them up, and left maga- zines open to photographs of choked wildlife for my father to stumble upon. I'm not a perfect environmentalist, though. I sometimes drive instead of walking or biking, and when given the oppor- tunity I fl y great distances on jumbo jets. I take long showers and wear chemical deodorant. When I had kids, I tried every type of cloth diaper—gDiapers, bumGenius, Bumkins—until I surrendered and bought plastic ones, unbleached, but still. It is only when I travel outside the liberal Berkeley, CA, enclave where we live now that I realize how radical I have be- come. At Disneyland, I was troubled by the ubiquitous trash cans printed with the words WASTE PLEASE. It seemed the trash cans were instructing us to waste things, please. Based on the amount of barely-touched food items I saw being tossed into these cans, Disneyland-goers don't need to be reminded to waste freely. The preciousness of my Berkeley-based environmentalism stands in stark contrast to the reality for most creatures on the planet. Forego the plastic bag? How about foregoing food, medicine, and sanitation? There is a baby in India waiting for a doctor who cannot help her. There is a whale bleeding on a beach, plastic knotted in its belly. And there is me, staring down my children until they eat every last pea on their plates. May the millions of gods help us all. Leila Sinclaire is a mother, writer, teacher, and educational consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow her on Face- book (Leila Sinclaire, Writer) or Twitter @leilasinclaire. By Leila Sinclaire 34 wholelifetimes.com Photos: Andrew Davis/freeheelimages EYEING FROM ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

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