The keepsakes left in a roadside garbage pile can tell a poignant story of how we lived, and who we loved.
Sometimes, it seems as if refuse on the side of the road has a gravitational pull. My wife and I drive down suburban streets and instinctively find our gaze hijacked – hypnotised – into scanning each precarious pile. Usually we slow, and we stop, and we sift through all the hard rubbish on offer, looking for vintage tables or bentwood chairs or carved picture frames – timber items we can mend and sand, stain and varnish, display and admire.
The compulsion is perhaps in my blood. My dad once worked as a salvage wrecker, demolishing houses by stripping them bare and selling each bit. He used sledgehammers and crowbars to free captive red bricks and terracotta tiles. Ripping out copper wiring and Baltic pine floorboards thus felt like a redemptive act: taking something otherwise set for oblivion and giving it new life.
It feels the same now, standing as a family on the footpath or in the gutter, sorting through strange belongings heaped upon the nature strip. Once we found a faded cloth sack filled with clinking marbles: a kaleidoscope of cat’s eyes and tombowlers and other keepsies. We’ve found an old scooter, a twin-seat school desk, a piano, and a red portable radio along with the 1978 receipt from Radio Shack. (It still works.)
But this recent payload was different.
Images by Simon Schluter