This post is made possible by a friend of the Mary Lee Kitchen Blog, Caila Diehl Rinker. We hope you enjoy it. – Mary Lee Kitchen Team
One of my favorite things about my house is the small garden in the front yard. My husband and friends would be quick to tell you that I’m taking credit for their hard work—I’ve been known to kill cacti. Even though I’m not the primary gardener, the rhythms of the garden help me feel rooted to the basic patterns of life.
The garden shows us that life comes from death. As a society, we like to ignore the truth that an embodied life is harsh, fragile, and cyclical. We make ourselves blissfully ignorant of the end that awaits us so thoroughly that we purge the memory of the small deaths we encounter on a day-to-day basis. For example, we place our biodegradable food scraps in plastic garbage bags alongside other biodegradable waste wrapped in non-decomposable things like disposable diapers. And then we continue to fill those bags full of plastic wrappers, Styrofoam take-out trays, old clothes, etc.—the tell-tale signs of our endless consumption. We then pay someone to remove this waste from our homes and throw it in a pit in the ground. There it will sit for decades as more waste piles above it, hiding from us the reality that we waste at an unsustainable pace.
Our ability to throw things in a seemingly invisible landfill robs us of the understanding that life comes through death. When plants (and eggs and coffee beans) meet the end of their life cycle in our kitchen, we collect the scraps for our compost bin. I can hardly wrap my mind around how miraculous it is that earthworms eat rotting food and expel good, fertile soil. But so it was that after the worms had eaten their fill, we scooped out some soil and used it to plant some basil. That plant has thrived and we use it regularly in our cooking. The scraps from any meal (including basil scraps) go back into the compost where they can decompose and continue to nourish our plant.
When we embrace death, ironically, we nurture life. Because we compost, the waste we create in our home is significantly reduced. And an eye toward the cycle between compost and garden—toward death and new life—has opened our eyes to the waste we unnecessarily create, as some materials can never again be good soil. As we’ve become keenly aware that beauty can arise from rot, it has made us attuned to practices of consumption that do not nurture this cycle. Furthermore, it opens the imagination to the places in our lives, relationships, health, or careers that can learn from an organic garden: when we are in-tune with the rhythms of the earth we see that death begets new life.
* The content of this post is largely taken from the wisdom I gleaned from a conversation with my friend, Tommy Givens. Tommy is an Assistant Professor of New Testament Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA.