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Living Green: Kayaker removes waste, leaving only wake

From her kayak, Mary Meyers plucks an egret feather from a cluster of mangroves and tucks it into the bandanna tied around her forehead. She's 75. Everyone calls her Grandma Rambo.

On this cloudy, humid evening, she's armed with garbage bags and surrounded by other good deed-doers, plucking trash from the waters of Clam Bayou in Gulfport.

High tide has left litter in the mangroves: plastic foam cups, water bottles, glass.

"I see lots of good stuff," she says.

Meyers wants to set an example for her grandchildren. "You've got to do something in your life that makes a little bit of difference."

She was brought up on a farm, so she always appreciated the outdoors. The first time she paddled, she was 66, a year shy of retiring as a travel agent. She liked being that close to the water. When she's not gliding across it, she'd rather be swimming, fishing or snorkeling. She has kayaked in Costa Rica and the Bay of Fundy.

Still, she continues to build a relationship with Clam Bayou.

The first time Meyers paddled here was about five years ago. It was a stinking mess. Tires and shopping carts clogged the channels. Trash collectors once found a full-length sofa.

"It's entirely different now," she says.

She heads into a mangrove tunnel. Reaching into the water — where the occasional water moccasin hides — she pulls out a black orthopedic shoe.

"My first shoe."

As the sun starts to set, dozens of wood storks, roseate spoonbills and great egrets fly in to rest high in the mangroves. The paddlers pause. One takes out her point-and-shoot. Grandma Rambo won't make it back to shore until her garbage bag overflows.

Living Green is a series of occasional stories by photographer Lara Cerri about people whose lifestyles support the environment. She can be reached at lcerri@sptimes.com.

Living Green: Kayaker removes waste, leaving only wake 11/22/08 [Last modified: Sunday, November 23, 2008 8:25am]
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