Well, here’s something I never thought I’d hear myself say again.
“I should blog about this!”
History shows glaringly well how my intentions to blog compared to actually blogging are epic. But as I start this next chapter, I’ve been nudged by the PTB (Powers That Be) it’s time to take some accountability. No more hiding behind the best of creative intentions.
To begin, I made a difficult decision in February and opted out of renewing my ADF membership. Next I submitted my letter of resignation to my ADF Grove. Nothing was wrong; ADF has been a good friend to me, but I realized it was not my home. The time had come for me to refocus my efforts not on being deeply involved in a Grove, but on my personal studies.
Without a Grove to fall back for spiritual fulfillment on the High Days, a lazy habit I acquired in four years, it was now up to me to take action. To do more. To perform my own high day rites. To cultivate my own religious practice.
One of those steps has been a long time coming, or at least that’s the vibe I get from the people who know me. You know how it is. When you’re in the center of the whirling dervish that is your life, you cannot see the forest for the trees. Yet those on the outside can see clearly. When I mentioned to a few I was considering going into Mortuary School, their eyes would light up. “That would be awesome! It’s so perfect for you after all the years of Ancestor Veneration you’ve been studying and doing.”
Hot damn. I guess so.
Although plunking down thousands of dollars on mortuary science classes does sound appealing, it freaks my practical side out. Before I make such a commitment, I’m taking things slow. Gods, it sounds like a relationship. I suppose in a way it is — one cannot rush cultivating a spiritual interest which could possibly lead to a new and fruitful career. Continuing with the relationship analogy, one can say I’m courting Death.
Yesterday I attended a Natural Death Care Symposium at Riverview Cemetery. For three hours I listened to speakers Holly Pruett (Death Cafe/deathtalkproject.com), Jodie Buller (Cemetery Manager, White Eagle Memorial Preserve), David Noble (Riverview Cemetery Executive Director), and Deon Strommer (Owner of First Call Mortuary Services) as they talked about their respective projects.
I was in geek heaven.
I was educated on decomposable urns. Before the symposium I only knew of brass and wood options, but to learn one can have their cremated remains buried and still be green thrilled me.
Since I was a teen, I’ve wanted to be cremated. The idea of going through the whole ordeal of being embalmed, stuffed in a coffin, and lowered into a concrete reinforced grave did not sound like an appealing afterlife. “What’s the big deal? You’ll be DEAD.” True, but as funerals are for the Living, folks forget they are also for the Dead. I want my body taken care and to be memorialized in the way I choose.
Cremation sounded cleaner. Less fussy. Nowadays we know that not to be true as it burns fossil fuels (Fun Fact: It takes 3.5 million BTUs to cremate a 175 pound body) and creates pollution. Not to mention the mercury emissions from folks dental fillings.
So what’s a girl to do? AQUAMATION! The first high-powered pressure Aquamation machine has arrived in Portland. Whereas the lower-powered ones take 10-14 hours to resolve a corpse, the high-powered version only takes 4.
Invented back in the mid 1980’s, Aquamation was created due to the Mad Cow disease. Authorities had to dispose of the bodies quickly and burning wasn’t working. In 2010, Aquamation was approved in the state of Oregon and currently 18 states allow it as a funeral option. It shares 1/10 of the carbon footprint and 20% more of the cremated remains (the bones) can be given to the family.
I love this idea. I can be Aquamated, have my bones ground into a fine white dust, and placed in an urn composed of salt or cornstarch. Then I can be buried because scattering my ashes might sound romantic (queue up dramatic movie montage moment), but it doesn’t offer a place for mourners to come and visit. And I want visitors. Preferably with offerings of damn fine whiskey or tequila. I’ll even accept chocolate.
For those who prefer a more wild in nature burial, the White Eagle Memorial Preserve near Goldendale, WA would be ideal. A conservation burial ground consisting of 20 acres of ponderosa pine and white oak, they offer families as much of a hands-on experience as they’d like. Family digging your grave, preparing it, lowering your body, and covering. Some rituals take an afternoon, while others can span a few days. Markers can be used as long as it’s natural and non-invasive. A few used rocks from digging the grave and had them etched.
After the symposium, I accepted the graciousness of the Riverview staff and took a quick guided tour of my possible death residency. The grounds really are gorgeous and I love the fact Riverview does green burials (25% of their business). Future plans for the cemetery include creating a Meadow Burial (natural and mildly manicured) and eventually a Forest Burial (natural ALL THE WAY, no granite markers or tombstones).
So what does all this have to do with building my religious practice? Courting Death is a step towards educating myself on the latest technology and options regarding the mortuary sciences. Eventually I will attend classes on being trained as a hospice volunteer. The more I understand and do not fear Death, but respect the fact we all die, the more I can help honor those who have already gone. The better I can appreciate my Ancestors and kindle their memory and stories.