Thursday, May 13, 2010

Politically Correct Compost

I'm working toward my Master Composter certification and am wondering if this means my own compost should be P.C. Politically correct compost would not have any half-decayed woolen socks in it.

Since 1993, my compost has been inspired by Vera Work, a social worker and Holocaust survivor, who offered a weekend workshop on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder during my last semester at Antioch University New England. Vera brought in a jar of compost that included a large rusty nail. The message to the traumatized client was clear. Everything eventually composts.

So for years, i threw old ripped woolen or cotton shirts or sweaters into my compost. Clothes that had no future even in a big yellow Planet Aid box. I thought decrepit clothes would instead aid the soil of my garden.

But then, digging into a 3-year-old compost bin, i'd shovel out a more or less whole green sweater matted with fibrous roots. Maybe it wasn't wool after all. A braided rug decayed into one or two foot lengths. I'd pull out the braids and snake them into the neighboring bin where i'd run into the blue strands a year or two later. A moccasin from Alaska lined with rabbit fur--i had worn holes in the sole at the heel and the ball of the foot, but the leather remained. A shred of a filmy cotton blouse my mother gave me for Christmas in 1977 now floats around my vegetable garden.

I've stopped throwing my ratty old clothes in the compost. Just last night, i tossed a hole-y wool sock into the trash.

Now when i pull what remains of a leather glove or a hotpad out of the compost, i put it in the trash bag that's headed for the dumpster. I wonder what archeologists a thousand years from now will make of a grimy, dirt laden, and ripped black cotton t-shirt?

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