Make every day a treasure hunt
By Lauren Green
Illustration by Jennifer Hart
I’m an early bird. Before sunrise on most weekdays, I am up, dressed and heading out the front door. After two power loops around the neighborhood, my watch announces that I’ve completed my exercise goal and rewards me by closing a sparkly green ring on the screen. It never disappoints. This, along with the promise of hot coffee, is motivation enough to drag me out of bed and into the early morning darkness day after day.
To my husband’s frustration, I rarely bring a flashlight with me on these pre-dawn outings. I find that my eyes adjust to the dark soon enough and, to be honest, the black and gray landscape often feels every bit as spiritual as a church to me. But I admit, sometimes scary things lurk in the darkness. Such as wild varmints with sharp claws and pointy teeth. Or unexplained shadows darting just outside my peripheral vision. Scariest of all are the acorns. Most notably, those hard-as-a-rock, golf-ball-sized ones that fall from burr oak trees. Last fall I broke my left ankle tripping on one. Burr acorns, running and dark skies don’t mix. I have a 3-inch surgical scar as proof.
Like that acorn, there are a lot of things I don’t see in the early morning darkness. But there are a lot of things I do see. I see other runners and walkers (who are usually smart and carrying a light). I often spot the timid stray cat that is secretly being fed by my neighbor. I watch high school kids carpool to ridiculously early practice sessions. And two days a week, I spy the little white pick-up truck.
On Mondays and Thursdays, well before most people are out of bed, the little white truck makes its rounds. Those are the designated trash days here. Firstworld living boasts a long list of fringe benefits, but at the top has to be the gift of consistent trash collection. Because humans produce a lot of trash in a given week, on Mondays and Thursdays, I pass countless bins lined up along the curb.
After years of observation, I think I have the little white pick-up truck figured out. From what I can tell, the driver is on the hunt for trash treasures. Every once in a while, I see the brake lights flash and the truck comes to a stop, indicating the driver has spotted something of interest. If the item is deemed a keeper, into the truck bed it goes.
I know all about treasure hunts like this. Years ago, I taught school and half my favorite classroom furnishings were plucked from strangers’ trash piles. There was the wooden rocking chair I repainted a bright red for read-aloud circles, the funky lamp with a fringed shade that cast a homey glow on my desk, and more cube bins, stools and shelves than I can count. For the driver of the little white pick-up truck, a neighborhood trash pile can be a treasure trove. But as I see it, the real treasure is found in a willingness to breathe new life into a discarded object.
Lately, I’ve been treasure hunting again. And I’ve become quite a thrift store aficionado. I think it started with the floral raincoat that sported an impossibly cheery pattern, a name brand label and a trendy belt. It was $10, and I’ve been hooked ever since. In fact, thanks to the abundance of thrift stores scattered around DFW, I rarely shop anywhere else nowadays. Sequined blouses, ski pants, magenta accent chairs and more puzzles than I can work in a lifetime; thrift stores have it all. And if I find I no longer use something, I re-donate it.
It’s about time to cull my home of past accumulated treasures. Of course, after I drop off my boxes and bags at one of the many second-hand stores that serve our community, I’ll probably pop in and take a look around. I have no idea what might be waiting for me. Likewise, I have no idea what all awaits me in this new year; it’s hard to see far ahead. I suspect there will be a few hazards but even without the illumination of foresight, I know beyond.