Recycling Center in El Cerrito

the day after the Summer Solstice   6/21/2012

In a place where the bayside flatlands

abruptly meet

the East Bay hills

in an old quarry

where huge bites of the hill

were mined out for blue schist

to build roads

and when the mining stopped

became the City Dump

and holding site for toxic waste,

where in 1970

the first Recycling Center

in Northern California

came into being

is a newly redesigned

state of the art

recycling center

next to steep ragged cliffs

mostly adorned

with exotic invasive plants—

quickest to grow

in this very disturbed earth.

Atop the cliffs

and curving ‘round the site’s edges

the simply descriptively named

“Hillside Natural Area”

where a bit of the wild

interpenetrates the urban,

where recently

a mountain lion has killed a deer

and foxes are seen.

Though a huge amount of currently useless

undigested waste

comes through here

things here are not headed to a landfill,

and they will not just become junk;

it is as though

each stream here

when separated like the

green, brown, and clear glass

become part of a full spectrum rainbow

of materials*

in this wounded place,

damaged like all mined places are,

that itself has been recycled

here the trash becomes

almost beautiful.

One can begin to feel

the possibility

that the materials themselves,

for some inexplicable reason,

may not have lost faith in us

and believe that we can still

make something good with them;

though violently ripped

from the body of the Earth,

they would rather stay in this dance with humans

than be thrown into the garbage

to rust, rot, crumble, corrode, and pollute.

This is a vortex of healing,

a graveyard of rebirth,

things go here

to be remade,

for their relationship with humans

to be redefined

and for people perhaps this time

to be truer to the trust of the materials

by making better things.

Right now

the work day is over

and gone are the sounds

of breaking glass and machinery;

in the late solstice light

people are quietly listening

to presentations

about how this recycling center came to be

while in the amphitheater of air above us

two red-tailed hawks

swoop and circle,

dip and turn,

crisscross in a dance in synch,

flirting and bickering,

quarreling and playing,

climbing and diving,

as though we had assembled here,

not for some human centered activity,

but to witness the performance

of their lives.

*A partial list of the materials accepted at this site: planters; pallets; construction materials; aluminum pans, cans, and foil; steel cans and scrap metal; bicycles; packaging; plexiglass; plate glass; glass containers; milk cartons; plastic of all numbers; styrofoam; newspaper, office paper, mixed paper, and cardboard; electronics and appliances; CDs, cassettes, and VHS tapes; used cooking oil; used motor oil; batteries of all types; fluorescent bulbs; books; non-perishable food bank donations; prescriptions; and hypodermic needles.