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Compost

July 26, 2017

I just built a compost bin for my patio.  In a month or so I’ll let you know how it’s working — for good or ill! For now I’m feeding it my kitchen scraps and some handfuls of browns, and waiting for my friends the microorganisms to do their work.

I realize I haven’t written anything here in a long time.  The past four years have been a time of enormous change in my life.  My parents sold my childhood home and moved far away. I got to celebrate the arrival of nephews, and I’ve been trying to understand my newfound role of aunt. I learned to drive. I learned to code. I played music in public. I found my own dentist. I was heartbroken and then heart-healed. I passed candidacy. I lost a grandmother. I travelled thousands of miles for fieldwork. I did my taxes. I found new ways of dancing. In short, I have been embroiled in the work of growing up, of figuring out how to live in this world that I’ve been thrust out into on my own.  If this were a fairy tale, I’d be in the part where the youngest child packs up their knapsack and ventures out into the forest to meet their fate, and long before they get to even a provisional happily-ever-after.

At the same time, these past four years have also been a time of stillness. I’m in the same place as I was — same department, same neighborhood. My dissertation inches along at a geologically slow pace, and I know it will never blossom into the bright and exotic flowers that I ambitiously proposed (whose ever does, really?). Many of my hopes have not come to fruition; many of my dreams have been eaten by stress. I am in a muddle in the middle of things, with no clear direction to where I want to be, and many days it feels as though I am waiting for my life to happen to me.

So, back to compost. The thing about compost is that it stinks. They say it won’t if you do it right, but let’s be real — no one gets anything right all the time. And while you can optimize your composting conditions, in the end you still have to let it sit there decomposing until it’s done. Perhaps you need some compost for your tomatoes? Too bad. Your compost is full of eggshells and smelly apple cores. It is not done yet; you’ll just have to wait, and find some other way in the meantime. How frustrating!

But the other thing about compost is that it is magical. It takes the cast-off useless scraps from your dinner and transforms them into dirt. And from that dirt — Oh, what wonders! Juicy tomatoes, sweet peas, bitter kale, fragrant herbs, sharp chives. Billions of bugs, and millions of microbes. Trees, even, bearing fruits and flowers and shade on a hot summer’s day. So many of the marvels of nature have their home in dirt.

Here I am in this eternal moment of transformation.  My life is a compost heap full of fragments of my past, and I have no idea what may grow out of it in the future.  Will I become a weed, bright and fast-spreading? Will I become an oak tree, slow and solid? There will surely be some volition involved when the time of planting comes, but for now all I can do is decompose, and wait, and imagine.

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