IMG_1022Some people take action right away…they sell the house, the car, they get rid of the stuff. Some do it because they have to, for financial reasons. Others because they need to get rid of the reminders – not the memories – the triggers.

Around here, not a lot of change has been visible to the naked eye. I’m maintaining. And I’m doing it pretty well. Things could have gone differently. I could have run through the neighborhood naked, screaming at the top of my lungs, with my dog chasing me, scratching me, biting my ass. Because that is, at times, how I have felt. Turned inside-out, for all to see, raging and raw. Or I could have kept the shades drawn all year….allowing the garden to take over, covering the whole house in spiky tangled vines. I’ve felt that way, too. That’s right, stay away kids, that’s the crazy widow’s house!

But one thing about grief is that when it isn’t slamming you over the head with emotion, it’s taking place on the most subtle of levels. I’m talking shades of shades of shades of gray. Too faint for the eye to see. Yep, a lot of grief takes place inside the closet. At the heart level, the cellular level, deep dark earthworm level.

And that’s good stuff. Right? I mean, worms are cool. They are good stuff. They do good stuff, below the surface.

IMG_1052For several summers, we were obsessed with composting. My husband, in particular, he got really funny about it. The man ordered 2,000 “Red Wriggler” composting-worms off of the internet, for God’s sake! He also almost got into a fight while waiting in line for the limited number of city-provided compost bins. (I’m pretty sure I became the accomplice to a crime that day, as he ran up to the car with two bins, threw them in the back and told me to drive off as fast I could.) Then, I came home once, to find him knee-deep in compost that he was moving from our old container to another, huge wooden shipping container. Oh dear. The thing looked like Frankenstein’s casket! It was huge. Too big to compost in effectively…but I kept my mouth shut…until it became clear that if we didn’t deal with the rot taking place in the Franken-composter, it was going to start stinking up the whole neighborhood. So I started saying things like, I think you are going to need to “turn the pile” more frequently, or, maybe we need to get more worms…

If a composting system is set up correctly, it’s a beautiful thing. All the musty old leaves, the lawn clippings, the left-overs from a lush garden, they slowly break down, transforming into rich organic humus that goes back into your garden. But composts require TLC. They need moisture, heat, air, the stuff needs to get turned and churned to encourage the process.

Can you see where I am going with this? Change is happening here. I’ve been moving stuff around all year. Strange piles that get mingled with other piles, then sorted out, re-arranged and stowed away. It’s taking place on every level. In my house, in my heart, in my mind…what’s next? Where am I going? What will I bring with me from this experience, from this loss?IMG_0996 There are definitely times when I feel stagnant, when I can’t see out from under the wet, heavy leaves, but then the process continues.

Today, I stepped into the darkest corner of the closet. I opened the bag that we had packed for his final trip to hospice…and faced my fears, and sadness, the deepest places of my loss. I could still smell his scent on the sweatshirt. My husband always smelled good to me – especially after a day of gardening – earthy, dirty and tired, the smell of a day well spent.

That’s how grief is taking place around here. A gradual churning and turning of the pile, earthworms, echinacea, and all, adding new stuff to the old stuff…it’s the only way I can do it, the only way I can get through it. We had a beautiful garden, a labor of love. Saying goodbye to him is also a labor of love. Slowly the seeds are lifting into the wind…some never to be seen again, but a few, they will settle down, nestling into the fresh soil, next to the worms, gearing up to go. Gettin’ ready to grow…

P.S. If you are interested in the composting worms, they can be found at My husband still gets their e-newsletter. One of these days I might feel ready to close his email account…but all in good time…seeing the e-newsletter makes me think of him and smile.

10 thoughts on “Composting

    • Yes…there is so much that can, and does take place in a compost. I love to think about the ways in which we can learn from the process. There are days when I look around my home, and what I am doing with our collective belongings, in regards to healing, and I really feel like it’s the same kind of process. Minus the helpful worms, I guess.

  1. you are such a good writer…love your analogy and love that you are turning the pile…the earth is rich and the lotus grows from this mud…thinking of you going through your husband’s hospice bag brought tears to my eyes. bless your heart…those are the words that come to mind. and thank you for sharing.

  2. I don’t know what to say – you’ve said so much, so beautifully – and your humor in the face of this is lifts my spirits.

  3. This one makes me ache for you. You’re being very brave, facing all of the muck you feel. And I love your description–being turned inside out for all to see. That is what grief feels like, isn’t it?

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