Friday, July 31, 2009

Life is Compost

"Life is compost."

"You think that a strange thing to say, but it's true. All my life and all my experience, the events that have befallen, the people I have know, all my memories, dreams, fantasies, everything I have ever read, all of that has been chucked onto the compost heap, where over time it has rotted down to a dark, rich, organic mulch. The process of cellular breakdown makes it unrecognizable. Other people call it the imagination. I think of it as compost heap. Every so often I take an idea, plant it in the compost and wait. It feeds on the black stuff that used to be a life, takes its energy for its own. It germinates. Takes root. Produces shoots. And so on and so forth, until one fine day I have a story or a novel."

"Readers," continued Miss Winter, "are fools. They believe all writing is autobiographical. And so it is, but not in the way they think. The writer's life needs time to rot away before it can be used to nourish work of fiction. It must be allowed to decay. That's why I couldn't have journalists and biographers rummaging around in my past, retrieving bits and pieces of it, preserving it in their words. To write my books I needed my past left in peace, for time to do its work."

From "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield

This wonderful quote was sent to me by my friend Gary Jo. The passage is spoken by a famous author near the end of her life. She explains how she held the compost generated by her personal life as sacred fodder for her creations. There is something so sustainable and integrated with the concept, every little bit of a life heaped and allowed to be digested in the darkness of the subconscious, then recycled as creative manna for nurturing new life.

I’ve written about the need to own one’s story. Life as compost reminds us that there is also a time to let go of the details, the emotional triggers, attachments, and even the story itself to allow the dark to work its magic.

Buddha said that all life is suffering,
I’ve never been able to fully back the idea…
But life is compost… this I understand.

The uncomposted bowel movements or rotting copses of our past are seldom met by life art. In organic production, time and temperature are monitored to chart when the waste is ready for use. In my backyard compost bin and personal life I am far more casual with the monitoring. It’s not uncommon in our household to make two or three trips a day, arms full of peels, rinds, leaves and shells- all into the bin. Everything not eaten is food for the dark, to emerge on a new day as food for our plants and life.

So perhaps great gardening and creativity…
May share the same humble beginnings
In compost.
I’ve got loads of compost!
And you?

No comments: