The Meaning of Compost

I have always enjoyed a good compost pile.

I will venture to guess that most people in the world don’t get as excited about decomposing plant matter as I do.  Recent interest in “going green” and buying local has likely turned more onto the pleasures of backyard farming life, or at least the idea of it, but how many can say, “I love compost!”?  The idea of worms and small organisms feasting on rotting vegetables makes me happy.  Throwing away used coffee grounds and egg shells, and then turning the soil over them causes a thrill.  And how wonderful it is to grab a handful of black gold, the rich end product of all good compost, in the spring.  I’ve always loved it, but why?

I’ll start with the most obvious reason for my compost obsession: it’s practical.  Every year we throw away tons of food waste.  Some of it doesn’t belong in the compost, like meat, fat, salt, and anything heavily processed.  Many other items can go in the pile without a second thought: fruits, vegetables, egg shells, coffee grounds, and pretty much anything that rots.  Think of how much waste you can reduce by starting a compost pile.  And the best part is that it is being put to good use!  That once useless garbage can now turn into fertile soil for your future plants and flowers.  Isn’t that cool!? And I don’t even drive a Prius.

The role of my father in shaping my interest in gardening and composting cannot be overestimated.

If you can see past the shorts and snow boots you’ll see a substantial compost pile in the background.  Growing right next to it is a pumpkin plant.  This is a serious garden.  My father, in his younger days, went all out.  I remember huge piles of corn at the end of the season, and 30+ tomato plants.  I grew up with this kind of garden, and from that very young age I wanted to be there.  Compost is part of who I am.

Now, and finally, I want to take you down a more philosophical path.  What is compost but a collection of dead things?  These dead things have seemingly lost all use.  They are to be thrown out, cast aside and forgotten.  But compost reveals something deeper about life and death, that death isn’t the end.  In the same way that a seed must be buried in the ground  before it can sprout, organic matter must be broken down to unleash its life-giving energy.  Compost gives second life, and speaks to a great truth about this world.  It’s not just dirt.

I love compost, and I will continue to love it for the reasons I’ve spelled out, and also for reasons yet known to me.     So I encourage you to start a pile of your own, and play a role in this great symphony of life.

3 thoughts on “The Meaning of Compost

  1. If only I had a backyard, I miss my Nana’s garden it wasn’t quite so large as your Dad’s but it certainly had many veggies and a compost pile way in the back. I agree that it’s useful but the environmentalist in me always supports how good they are to stave off some of the waste as well.

  2. mary

    Hey David, I remember those days and had the pleasure of enjoying some of the fresh corn and green beans. Sure wish I could find the copy of the sermon he preached about gardening. I haven’t given up.

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