This I Believe

jennifer - Ann Arbor, Michigan
Entered on May 9, 2006

I believe in composting. My parents are not religious, but they have always had a compost pile. As I think of it I can see the image of my mother turning it in the spring and in the fall spreading the rich earth over the flowerbeds. To this day a container of peelings, eggshells and various other food scraps can often be found outside my parents back door, waiting for some kind soul to give them passage.

I never gave that compost pile a thought, other than that container of scraps being a nuisance, until the year I turned 23. That year I made my own garden and one of the first things I set about doing was to start a compost heap, simply out of necessity as I needed somewhere to put the grass I had displaced to start the garden.

Over time I came to love the ritual of composting, walking my offerings out to the pile, passing the garden on my way. In it I found spirituality. Through this simple act I was able to daily connect with the cycle of life, to consider the dependence that all living things have on one another, all the while doing my share to reduce the waste going into the landfills

When I was twenty-five, I got married and left my compost pile. It was several years before I could get back to one as we lived in apartments with no yards. Not a day went by during that time that I didn’t feel guilt putting those vegetable scraps, and coffee grinds in to the garbage. It felt thoroughly wasteful.

The year I turned thirty, I remember the day vividly, my mother came to visit my husband and I in our first house. She helped me to plant my long awaited garden and of course we needed a compost pile for all that grass. We made a double one behind the garage so that I could, as my mother said, turn it more easily. As I look back on this day, I feel certain that my parents’ belief in composting was one of the many gifts they passed on to me. Through it, I can daily consider the balances in life between giving and receiving, living and dying, and in this small way help to preserve the earth for our children. Perhaps it is not religion in the conventional sense, but it serves the same purpose for me. It reminds me each day, of my responsibility to the greater good and quite literally shows me how this mindfulness can yield great gains as I greet some new flower in the garden, that raises its head to the light, nurtured by the other lives that came before it.