Image courtesy of  graur razvan ionut/

Recycling Eccentricity

This morning I got totally immersed in reading Facebook. Before I knew it (or without knowing it?) I was enmeshed in reading  copious “conversations” about the town I grew up in. The conversation that jumped out at me was about  “Lena, the Garbage Lady.” She was a woman with a college education who, though once a teacher, had decided to live alone with her dogs and cats and to drive a horse drawn cart through the streets of Eureka Springs picking up people’s garbage. Rumor has it she lived in a cave in the summers and a cabin in the winters. Some thought her crazy. Some thought her a witch. Some thought her a silly old “hillbilly woman.” I remember her and her cart from the time when I was a young child about 60 years ago. GTO immortalized her in their 1969 “Permanent Damage” album  in their song entitled: “The Eureka Springs Garbage Lady”(

Why bring all this up? Well, Lena has become an important symbol to me of qualities I admire in a woman. She was strong, intelligent,  and independent,  and she dared to think/live  by her own values rather than those of society. She was years before her time; she pre-dated the feminist movement by at least a couple of decades. She “dropped out of society and lived on the land” years before all of us old “hippies” aspired to doing so. She was doing recycling before the word was invented. I wish I could turn the clock of time back and have a conversation with her. I would love to know her thoughts and to be introduced to the truths her life had taught her. Maybe I would find out the folks who called her crazy had been right. Maybe I’d find out the people who said she abandoned “society” due to a love affair having gone bad  were right. Perhaps, I would find those who said she “lost her mind” because she was unable to rescue all the children from a burning school building  were right. As far as I know, she never presented a danger to herself or others, and, therefore, I do not think she could legally be considered insane (crazy). However, in small rural  towns being different can be enough to get you labeled crazy. I think she was an intelligent woman who was brave enough to choose to be different, regardless of what motivated her to become a recluse garbage collector.

I hope I can allow this woman’s legacy to help me have the courage to be different and live according to what I consider to be important rather than what society considers important.  I always assumed Ms. Lena had a very active spiritual life filled with prayer and meditation. Maybe I have her mixed up with the Dalai Lama, but that does not really  matter. What matters is how I live my life. You see, I want to be independent and to march to my own drummer, but I want to do it within the context of relationships with people and my God. I want to be immersed in spirituality, but I want to do it amidst my fellow humans rather than while being a recluse. Don’t get me wrong, I highly respect those who devote their lives to being in constant contact with a spiritual being on a spiritual plane rather than in the context of our world’s shared reality.  I need others to teach me, to show me, to inspire me, to let me feel the God within them,  and to let me hear the God within them. Otherwise, I would not be challenged to grow. I would become complacent. I would go to sleep.

So, the message from today’s blog is to immerse yourself in the world that surrounds you and relate to the people you encounter. Take time to think about what your observations have to teach you. Take these observations and interpretations inward where one can discover the spiritual truths imbedded in daily existence. May God bless and keep you.