Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dirt from my grave

Morbid? Nope.
Is there any substance that better represents the ongoing cycle of life—past, present, and future—than soil?

Think about it. The richest soil is fed by—and offers—abundant, living nutrients appropriated from living organisms that have died.

Indeed, our most delicious, nutritious, and colorful fruits and vegetables seem to spring from gardens of the darkest soil. Darkness and the spectre of death, then, are not to be feared; if anything, they remind us of our imperative to live, and of the short time we have to do so fully.

For several years, on top of my refrigerator, I've kept a Snapple jar filled with dirt from my presumed burial spot. I collected it from the family plot in Central Pennsylvania where four generations of my Dad's side are already buried. The cemetery is a hillside, a patch of land owned by the local Mennonite church.

Every week or so, my eye will fall upon the jar, which seems to say: "Here I am—the soil to which you'll return. Your time is short, and unknown. You may have traveled, studied, and lived in different parts the world—made mistakes, found love, hurt, and been hurt—but your bones will ultimately come to commingle with me, and with those of your neighbors and the family from whom you were formed."

To date, the dirt has helped give me the courage to remind friends I love them; to improve my career situation; to give as much as I can to charity; to dedicate my life to sharing the beauty and benefits of veganism with others; and to pursue a meaningful relationship with an incredible person, regardless of the risk of getting hurt. Not a bad deal!

So, no. The subject's not at all morbid; it's not at all something to fear. The jar and its contents are a very present reminder to make the most of every minute, month, year, or decade I'm blessed with.

(Business idea: If I can somehow get a formaldehyde exception, mine could be a very vegan funeral. Vegan weddings seem to be taking off. Why not funerals?)