Cleaning Trash out of the Water and Alligators Out of the Mind, One Piece at a Time

I was walking across the dock, each weather beaten board creaking beneath my feet.  In the water at both sides of me alligators were rising to the surface.  Their long snouts were peeking out, and their sharp reptilian eyes zeroed in on me, waiting, as though they knew.  Those boards began to fall away, one by one…


I gasped as I sat up in bed like a person emerging from water. The alarm on my cellphone was singing away in its appropriately alarming way. The light of dawn was just starting to trickle through the curtains as I rubbed my eyes. Just that damn dream again.

To the boy’s room I went, where the sleeping five-year-old resisted my touch, clearly not dreaming about alligators. “We have to get up so we can go on The Litter Gitter,” I whispered. The boy sat upright, blinking, like he too had just emerged from water.

An Alligator Nightmare…Come True?

We drove across the bridge. The sky was in a state of confusion. The morning sun and the rain clouds seemed to be in the middle of an argument, but the sun was gaining the upper hand as it broke through towards the east. A strip of bright light was gleaming in my eyes, along with patches of clear blue.  That surely was a good omen. 

We parked.  The smell of salt air wrapped around me like a blanket.  It is the sort of salt air that you feel stiffening your hair, but that is okay, because it seems to purify everything in its path.  The boy, blinking in a still bleary-eyed manner, was not entirely willing to shake the hand of the amiable captain.  Five-year-old’s are not exactly known for their charming introductions. No matter, the captain led us onward.


The dock was short, not unlike in my dream, and a tad weather beaten.  I cast a quick glance to the right and left—no alligators.  Of course there are no alligators, what is wrong with you?  I tossed my head defiantly at myself. We climbed into the yellow boat.

Trash Collection, and a Proper Alligator Wrestle

The boy was looking around curiously at the pristine water. Where is the trash? was rolling through his head. The boy had expectations.  He planned to rid the ocean of a nice chunk of lingering humanity—the sort of humanity that takes 500+ years to decompose.  And to do so on The Litter Gitter? That was a special bonus.

The dolphins gliding their sleek bodies out of the ocean was a good distraction.  Their bodies took the shape of a semi-circle, and each movement reminded me of a ball rolling. It was as though they would instantly come back up and complete the circle. It is such a rhythmic motion that it mesmerizes. But let’s stay focused—we are here to talk trash.


The boat stopped off at a small strip of land heavily bordered by oyster shells. We hopped off that boat like a couple of pirates ready to recover our buried treasure. Plastic bucket in hand, we combed the shoreline. Trashy treasure was everywhere. The boy hurried along with his friend picking up the easy finds—the numerous plastic and glass bottles filled with murky water, lonely single flip-flops with broken straps, and bottle caps of every color in the rainbow.

Always up for a challenge, I started tackling a semi buried rope that was tangled in the grass. An image of me wrestling an alligator came to mind. Then I had an image of me as a pirate wrestling an alligator, and it all got convoluted, so I blinked it away and caught up with my son, rope successfully in hand.

The Trashy Results

Picking up trash was, oddly, like a scavenger hunt with very non-specific clues. All five-year-old’s like scavenger hunts. The boy was so enthusiastic about finding a toothbrush, a light bulb, some tobacco cans, a fish hook, and a plastic sand shovel. The less common finds were certainly interesting, but I think the greatest learning opportunity was in the bulk of what was found—lots and lots of plastic water bottles, food wrappers, and convenience store Styrofoam cups. 

Conveniently, the boy found a torn up Capri Sun package—something I don’t buy but that he has asked for at the grocery store more than once.  “It is too much packaging,” I had said at the time. I think we might now see eye-to-eye.


We reconvened in the boat, and the captain showed the kids what happens after plastic has been sitting out in the sun for a while. He crumbled a broken milk jug in his hands and talked about the sea creatures that eat those plastic bits. This is a topic we had formally discussed, but I don’t think the boy was listening.  Moms are just so boring.  Sometimes it takes a captain—the cool guy that the boys observed getting to turn the steering wheel and push the boat off by poking the ground with a really big stick—to explain for it all to sink in.

All in all, we collected four buckets of trash, a big cage-thing, and my chunk of alligator wrestled rope. Not bad at all.

The Residual Effects

Later in the evening I was chopping vegetables in the kitchen when the boy cruised past in a rectangular shaped laundry basket, broom stick in hand to stab the tile, and muttering something about being on The Litter Gitter. He held up a canister full of his little toy vehicles and said, “I’m getting cars and trucks out of the water for my collection.”  

“Just watch out for alligators,” I mumbled.

4 thoughts on “Cleaning Trash out of the Water and Alligators Out of the Mind, One Piece at a Time

  1. Fun! I enjoyed hearing about your adventures on the Litter Gitter – We live along the Intracoastal in STA and are so grateful to the Litter Gitter for cleaning up our coastline. Your blog caught my eye because I too have been having crazy dreams about alligators! I have kids too and have grown up in Florida, swimming in countless lakes with gators, but for some reason, they’re on my mind so much more now – as they seem to be getting pushed out of their habitats and into ours more often. EEK. I’m so glad you didn’t run across any on your adventure. And thanks for helping to clean up our waterways! 🙂


    1. It sounds like we have a lot in common. I grew up in Gainesville – the land of the alligator. I think in my dreams they are a symbol of anxiety. It is always me not wanting to deal with it, turning away, but the dream is forcing the issue. I wonder what yours represent. I am glad I haven’t seen any in the wild in years. Awesome creatures…to be seen from a very far distance 😉


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