litterI’m a handful of miles from home, on a sunny Saturday morning in January, bicycling along a bike lane I’ve only just today discovered. There are some challenges; firstly, though it’s sunny, it’s still cold, especially since I’m riding straight into the wind. Secondly, I’ve got more cargo than usual. My computer is slung along my back, but I’m also carrying my projector and cords and the strap is digging into my shoulder.

My destination is Robin Run, a retirement community, where I am to deliver my Climate Reality slideshow. Robin Run is where my mother-in-law, Margaret Wildhack, spent her last years, mostly in the Alzheimer’s unit. Mig, as everyone called her, died there one night in 1997, just before Thanksgiving.

My friend and eco-hero, John Gibson, a resident of Robin Run, invited me to this presentation. John was a good friend of Mig’s, so he was one of the first people I met when I moved to Indy in the mid-80s.

As I bicycle, I’m thinking about Mig and her indomitable spirit. She once scaled the eight-foot fence in the Alzheimer’s unit courtyard, while wearing a dress, and walked a few miles before chancing upon a man who figured out from where she’d escaped. Remembering that adventure, I’m inspired to keep pedaling straight into the teeth of this bloody wind.

But I’m distracted, as well, as my eyes keep straying to the side of the road, which is loaded with litter. Who are these people, I wonder, who so disdain the earth they throw trash out their window?

A blaring horn disrupts my reverie. This stream of cars along 71 st never ceases; it’s an unstoppable font of emission- and litter-spewing metal. One wrong move and I’m dead.

Look, there’s more discarded crap. A Styrofoam cup from a fast food joint. A piece of clothing — a tee-shirt? And what’s that? A car battery.

In fact, it’s a Diehard car battery.

Well-named, isn’t it? It will take a long time for that piece of litter to die, and think what acids will leach into the soil. For a moment, I think about stopping and picking it up out of the muck, but realize I’m already carrying too much as it is.

I pedal on, and find myself recalling the solar panels on Mig’s home in the Mapleton

Fall Creek neighborhood, in the mid-to-late ‘80s, years after Ronald Reagan had removed the solar panels from the roof of Jimmy Carter’s White House. Mig was an early adopter, all right, and a mindful citizen of Mother Earth.

At last I reach Robin Run, memories of the place flooding back. As I set up the projector and ready the presentation, I recall the night Mig died. My wife, her aunt and I were bedside, knowing the end was near. Someone thought to turn on the radio.

The Hallelujah Chorus was playing. Over the course of that piece, Mig died peacefully.

Hallelujah, Mig. Hallelujah to your solar panels, your fence-climbing antics, your unflagging optimism. I won’t let the litterbugs and carbon emitters and solar panel-removers of the world get me down.

The group arrives, some in wheelchairs, some with walkers. I fire up the projector and begin.

This month, Jim’s presentations include three shows at the Going Green Festival, Indiana State Museum, March 16. If you want to invite him to present to your organization or church or school, contact him at

Also, plan to attend the ILG earth celebration party, March 30 at Indianapolis City Market.

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