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Ping Pong Wizard

By Laura Waldo-Semken 3/28/2020 AmeriCorps VISTA serving Missouri River Relief

The Ping Pong Wizard of Flat Branch Creek, Columbia, MO

I found a Ping Pong ball in Flat Branch creek today. Reminds me of my grandmother, NoNo. A feisty woman who played basketball, danced like a movie star, a silver tongue and a wit like no other. She once told me she lived just to find out what crazy thing would happen the next day. Nagging legislators about issues dear to her was also part of her playbook. When fights with my Grandpa got heated, they would take it to the basement for a match of Ping Pong. Keep fighting, keep working it out, be curious and dance like nobodies watching. Please click the link and listen. It’s grandma approved.

What’s this got to do with plastic reduction you ask? Well, when I pick up trash, almost all of it is plastic, both soft and hard. And I ask myself, “Why do I keep doing this?” It seems pointless cause we are not turning this plastic faucet off anytime soon. Where is the motivation? Suddenly the answer came to me, in my twisted brain, as I admired how the roots of the Sycamore adapted by growing around the rocks as if in embrace. And the water shaped it as well, forces beyond the Sycamore’s control.

Adaptation. Picking up this plastic mess is all I can do right here right now. The motivation seems to be a force beyond my control. I enjoy the gurgling of the creek, the frogs leaping, the fish scattering, the knowledge that I am mitigating injury to wildlife. I wish the manufacturers would only create reusable or magic disappearing packaging. I wish that consumers would reject convenience consumption. I wish folks wouldn’t toss trash out their car windows. I wish that communities had the tools to give every homeless person a home and mental health care too. But we are left with adaptation. So I must keep pickin’ and grinnin’. We must adapt.

So as I was creek stomping, searching for sanity, thinking about writing this blog, being forced to adapt to a strange social distancing world where folks are losing jobs and kids are not allowed to go to school, I began singing this song: I have reason to believe the grass might be a little greener on the other side.

And hope. Cannot forget hope. With adaptation, we are getting out and doing clean ups just by ourselves or with family. And we are creating a community by sharing pictures and stories, giving each other praise, acknowledging accomplishments, creating a larger family. We are not alone. This new online trash tally talk is fun: #IPickedItUp  #KeepItClean #RiverRelief  #GiveaHootDontPollute. We can adapt.

If love is the motivator, like a rock, then adaptation is like water in a creek, always flowing, always singing. Keep pickin’ and grinnin’ my friends!!

Flood Debris from Hartburg Access, Missouri River, MO

Let’s do this!!

2 thoughts on “Ping Pong Wizard

  1. Laura: Thank you very much for your entertaining, funny and engaging blog about your efforts with River Relief. So nice to hear your positive ideas and instructions on all of us can help to build a cleaner world one person at a time. My friends and I are working on killing honeysuckle in a few City Parks and RockBridge State Park. Keep me informed about your new projects. Especially after we get through this social distancing issue. Please put me on your blog list:

    Steve H. Johnson


    1. Hi, thanks for your encouragement and support. I approved your comments- I think that means you will receive a notice when I post a new blog. I am new to this area and dealing with honeysuckle. What is your tried and true method for eradication? i would like to tackle some in my yard.


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