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Early June is time to dig out the compost that is ready for use and transfer it to the raised beds in the vegetable garden. Composting is science, art and intuition and use of a compost thermometer. All those layers, seaweed, grass, kitchen biodegradables, manure, twigs, cardboard, were once individual layers. Now they are big sweet-smelling garden gold.

What is the identity of finished compost? Can the components be separated?

What is my identity?  Who am I as a spouse, a sister, a godmother, a gardener, an Anglican, a friend, or a senior? Each one of those is both the same me and not the same me. I shift with the weather, with health, changing bank account, the international news. On top of that is my ethnicity, my gender, my status, belongings, and my idols. In each state there are subtle and not so subtle differences. Not only differences but even contradictions.  

“Do I contradict myself?” wrote the poet Walt Whitman.“Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.”

On the way to Pentecost (June 5 in 2022), rejoicing in warmer temperatures and increased day light, my spiritual life fluctuated again. The rites of a liturgical tradition allow me a fluidity of feeling and experiences. Fluidity is healthy. There is no hurt or harm in discovering and exploring the inner layers. If there is a problem, it is with being static, with getting stuck in assigned roles that feel restricted. Same goes for theologies.

In her book Learning to Walk in the Dark, Episcopal priest and theologian Barbara T. Brown identifies her fluidity as “lunar”; many changes but not chaos. When we speak of “dark “emotions, she says, it’s not that some emotions themselves are dark but that we try to keep them hidden. When I turn a compost pile, I can see what was there in the moist dark but in the process of coming to light I see how they have blended and changed each other.

Can identify be forged or forced? Can I create a new identity for myself? That seems a little harsh. Allowing transformations of raw material is a slow process. Are we at our centre dark coal dust or star dust? That requires some heavy theological lifting not to be undertaken here (Pelagian or Augustinian)?

One of the Genesis Creation stories tells us, we are both. Dust of the ground and the divine breath. The Gospel describes fearful disciples hiding in a room after the crucifixion. Christ breathed on them, then gave them tasks.

COVID, war, inflation, weather; we also are fearful disciples. From Resurrection to Pentecost rites, was one layer of identity. Now back to our “ordinary” tasks, we still long for that breath of God to transform all our oppositions and detritus. May they be transformed into gold.

You could call it a theology of worms. A good compost is like a good liturgy. It is generative; moves us to another phase of our completion. Who we are, as Paul tells the Galatians, is a process of becoming. Ashes mixed with sparkles. 

This time of year, Hannah Main-van der Kamp is in her Powell River garden as much as possible. Yes, there is such a thing as a compost thermometer.


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Credit: Terra 24