A few weeks ago, before I left for travels to the midwest, I decided it was time to move the compost bin. This is an annual event that is usually sparked by the need to have some compost to put on the garden. It’s easier to access the best of the decomposed products of our kitchen by taking the bin apart and shoveling the contents to the new location than to try to dig it out of the little doors at the bottom that are overgrown with weeds.
The bin came apart without difficulty and then the fun began. With the first turn of the shovel the compost-workers went scurrying in every direction. This is no time for squeamishness. I told the little critters that they were heading to a nice fresh (as fresh as a compost heap can be!) home and I gave thanks for their labors in every season to digest our peelings and coffee grounds. It’s a nasty but necessary job, munching through the detritus of a household. But if you’ve ever seen an active compost pile you know that there’s even a sense of delight in the process! The grubs, worms, roaches and all the other microscopic heroes just do what they were created to do and in the process they turn our trash into treasure
Shoveling through the layers seemed like a crude form of archeology. The top layers held the most recent additions to the pile- like the pineapple top from our Easter fruit salad. The “harder-to-digest” pits and peels of avocados could have been from anytime. The corn husks could have been Christmas tamales or last Labor Day’s corn-on-the-cob.
Finally I reached “pay-dirt”! The rich black soil at the bottom of the pile that was ready to give my tomato and jalapeño seedlings the good start they need in the garden. What a wonder! Sister Paula Gonzalez has written about compost as an experience of “the paschal mystery”. It is a witness to the life-death-new life cycle in which we believe.
Yesterday I planted the garden. I prepared each little hole with a generous trowelful of compost before setting the seedling in place. Last year’s cast0ffs will nourish this year’s new life.
The process of composting also keeps me aware of the blessings that can be discovered from a reflective life. Digging through the experiences of past days, weeks and months can yield a rich harvest. It’s not always pretty but if I keep digging there are usually some wonderful revelations!