Composting Our Way Into Renewal

Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis) 'Green Carpet' with fresh bark mulch. April
Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis) 'Green Carpet' with fresh bark mulch. April

Every spring is a time of renewal, of life surging forth for another round of growth. It is honored in religions, and in many regions of the world. I'm told that in Iran, 13 days are set aside for celebration. Perhaps this is part of the renewal we all need: spending more time celebrating life.

For Christians, this is Holy Week, leading up to resurrection on Easter. This year in particular, my spiritual community is focused on the changes needed in this time, the simplifications that will enable us to be free to act, to respond rather than react to changes coming at us. Some are remaking lifestyles with less income, some are rebalancing their lives to include more home gardening, and some are including more direct political action to live out their values. We so urgently need new social and economic patterns; the questions loom large of how we will reclaim and sustain healthy and quality lives, of how we will reweave the essential community connections and drop our consumption dramatically. In the face of ecological change, and the need to build a new prosperity based on renewed values and minimized energy consumption, we are going to have to act our way very consciously into rebirth. That means composting.

Composting is in many ways one of the most spiritual of practices. It is the process that will feed the next cycle of life, which will take endings and serve new beginnings. It is powerfully renewing on many levels, and offers deep metaphoric guidance. I have long loved the following poem, written by Amy Schutzer, and published here with her permission. It offers guidance into the actions needed at this time. Read deep.

"What to do on Spring Equinox"

Compost this poem:

Take out all the words that remind you of winter,

Words that slip frozen into the heart,

Bare limbs of words that stick into the sky and shake.

Prune out dead wood;

Rough ragged never gonna fruit.

Done is done.

Pay attention to what is here,

Not what isn't.

Send your roots into another row or field or bed.

Mow. Rake up all the grass.

Layer, as if you're expecting hail or a deep frost;

The end of winter is always unpredictable.

Add manure, plenty of manure

And call in the flies, the dung beetles, the worms.

Soon, they'll be heat. Steam.

The pile will soften, break down, give in, let go.

Compost winter into spring,

Take off those old clothes you've been wearing,

The despair like a hat on your head,

Dig into the pile,

Into the heat and the heart of what matters.

Plant your garden and remember, each year,

Everything will be different,

Compost what you can.

Amy's chapbook of poems, 'Taking the Scarecrows Down,' is available at Finishing Line Press. Her first novel, 'Undertow,' is available at Calyx. She is at work on her second novel.