Spring is here! Those of us who enjoy gardening are eagerly getting seeds in the ground, setting up watering systems for the drier days to come, and planning future harvests. Some expert-level gardeners I know are already gathering in their spring crops and bragging about their peas and artichokes on Facebook (show-offs! ;-). And with less enjoyment, but surely plenty of determination, we who love our gardens are tackling the upstart weeds, trying to whip the ivy and oxalis and other invasives into submission. There is a lot to do now in these middle-spring weeks. But as you prepare and plant, dig and delve, don’t forget your compost.
I’m an enthusiastic composter. My husband is not the first one to be baffled upon seeing me dig paper towels out of the recycling to contribute to the compost instead. I have to hold my hands back from digging into the trash at large parties or gatherings where compostables are wasted for the want of a properly labeled bin. Many a housemate/sibling/friend has rolled his or her eyes when I suggested that instead of being thrown in the garbage, a pair of old jeans could be shredded and mulched. I wonder what the neighbors think when they see me sweeping up fallen leaves from the street for their valuable composting properties.
So, you can call me crazy if you want – I prefer the term “obsessed” – but I have theology to back up this particular obsession, and I’d like to share that theology with you. Because in the beginning, God created us out of the fertile soil. The more familiar phrase “created from the dust” is a mistranslation. The word is soil, and it’s not the dry dusty variety, nor the clay variety nor the sand, but the humus, the fertile kind that you’ll find in a well-cured compost pile. God created humanity from humus in the beginning, and several times in the chapters to come we are commanded to serve, observe, and preserve the soil. We must take care of the stuff from which we were made.
Composting is a way to celebrate the victory of life over death. In the compost pile, decay births new life.
Amen, says the one who grieves, and the seedling starts are glad.
Composting is a way to invest in the crop of planting carbon deeper and deeper into the earth, the slow-food crop that will be harvested in centuries to come.
Amen, say the scientists, and the earth’s temperature-watchers are glad.
Composting is a way to remember that we are all in it together, because we cannot “throw away” trash without throwing it on top of someone or something else in our earthly community – there is no “away” there.
Amen, say our ocean creatures, and the landfills are glad.
Composting is a way to take back our soil fertility from corporate-agriculture hands, from those who would care for our topsoil by chemical means only while neglecting the finer aspects of soil health.
Amen, says the microbe, and the little worms are glad.
So, friends, rejoice and pat yourself on the back as you compost. Whether you use municipal services at home or work (or church!), or use a bin in your yard, or throw an apple core out the car window, do it with prayer and gratitude. And if you don’t have a place for composting yet . . well, yes, I’d love to take your fallen leaves.