One pleasure of street-gleaning is its unexpected & totally predictable seasonality. I’ve taken to describing it like food: gleaning, harvesting, wildcrafting, foraging, gathering. And while my crop is infrastructure waste, paradise paved & erased beneath us, it follows the seasons; however much we think we’ve subjugated our physical world, it is in everything we do.
Metal bristles came in late winter, months after I began gathering bright plastic ones. In fact, I didn’t find any til after our April blizzard, when—maybe—contractors were already changing their machine attachments for spring.
They blend in; finding them an exercise in spotting the difference between a crack, a shadow, any thin sliver of crooking branch on the sidewalk—a bright afternoon sun is helpful for discernment. They break, they bend, their undulations become muted & disappear. And even after I’ve spent hours walking the same few blocks with my sidewalk gleaning tools (a boxy bag, a magnet on a ribbon), I’ll come back a day or two later to find another dozen blooming across those same paths, poking from crevices. I have theories now, about how rain moves them, about how they catch on people’s shoes like burrs, tagging along into visibility.
But ultimately, I don’t know. I’m not even certain they’re snow bristles. And I don’t know how much the knowing matters. I walk, as humans do, and I gather what I need, as humans do. What is there shifts with the seasons and how I find it changes with the arcing sun. We’ve chosen public spaces where harvests are metal rings of hubcaps from car crashes & blooms of bristles from heavy machinery, where instead of soil & insects I’m scrubbing off oil & salt.
That’s where we’re at, salting the earth beneath our feet, burning & spilling the oil/blood of our own fossilized veins until we can’t breathe, until our forests dry out & our rivers swell, until our crops fail, until we exile each other from our homes, turn our backs on one another. Somehow there is still ebb & flow, dark & light, day & night, soil beneath asphalt & sky above it, and my uneven footsteps foraging for whatever might nourish me, might be replanted to harvest.