Doing Alchemy

So my compost experience yesterday brought up that feeling in me of how magickal life is and how everything is truly in a closed loop system as long as we don't alter nature so much as to be unrecognizable (coughplasticcough). I mean, I tossed these things in a bucket:

houseplant pruning
coffee grounds
shredded newspaper, mail, and cardboard tray from cat food
paper tissues
cat hair, my hair
moar coffee grounds
incense stick ends and ashes
sweet potatoes, apples, onions, etc. peels & bits
my clipped nails, shed kitty claws
did I mention coffee grounds? Lotsa those

...and it transmogrified into rich, rich compost which plants will use as food and substrate. That's fucking amazing. That is truly alchemy!

incense in the balcony grove

Those are things that people in the west generally throw in a plastic bag, which gets tossed in a can or dumpster, which gets picked up by a truck, which gets compressed in the truck, which gets dumped on a mountain of other trash, which releases absurd amounts of methane (worse for climate change than CO2, if you didn't know). Most people don't realize that, and so they think anything biodegradable will break down just the same in a landfill as in a compost pile; but the issue is that in a landfill, it's doing so anaerobically - that is, without oxygen - and ergo producing methane, instead of CO2 as it would in compost ( Plus, healthy soil actually stores carbon in a solid form that can stay there for centuries ( Getting sealed up in a landfill - first, just by being buried under a continuously-growing mountain of garbage with lots of plastic in it, but then eventually capped - NTM, mixed with all of the toxic who-knows-what that ends up in landfills - prevents the biodegradable waste from being turned into healthy soil (all while our soils are being eroded!). This is why anything in the store labeled as "green" because it's "biodegradable" is generally greenwashing: most of that stuff won't break down in your at-home compost pile, and requires a municipal composting system to work. So unless you are lucky enough to have access to such and it correctly gets tossed in that bin, it being technically biodegradable isn't any help to the environment. But I digress.

Modern throwaway culture takes humans and our outputs out of the natural closed-loop cycle, that turns trash into treasure, and instead we turn it into poison. All around the world, animal poop feeds the soil, but in too many places, humans poison the waters with it (instead of properly cooking the dangerous bacteria out of it and using it as fertilizer) or create giant toxic cesspools of it on factory farms. Cow dung, which is a great fertilizer all by itself, goes from a soil builder to a poison. And then we create chemical fertilizers that don't feed the soil, cause algae blooms in the water (the die-off in the Gulf of Mexico is due to fertilizer washing out from the Mississippi), instead of using the free, better, already there fertilizer from the cow herder next door. How fucked up we are! How do we take a resource that we are going to have anyway and make of it a poison, necessitating the creation of even more poisons to do an inferior job compared to what the original resource would have done and call this "progress"? We are delusional and stupid. Nature had a system for millions of years, and humans thought we knew better because of our big brains and even bigger egos.


I just took another cardboard tray that my cats' food came in, and cut it up to transform it into a beneficial resource that will build soils and feed plants, instead of causing more harm. I can take a product that served its purpose, and give it a new purpose, keeping it in the cycle of life.

These little projects give me joy, knowing that nature's magick helps us all. I am content smashing up my eggshells, cutting up my cardboard, and drying out my coffee grounds, knowing that by doing so, I am in the circle. I am not free from human damage upon the environment - that's nearly impossible to escape nowadays - but I can align more of my life with Her systems. There may be no ethical consumption under capitalism, but I think a lot of people use this as an excuse to just blithely go about their days, consuming and wasting as they please without thought or care, because they have this nihilistic view that it doesn't matter anyway. Maybe my little compost bin won't save the whole world, but it feeds my heart, and it feeds my plants, who feed my heart some more with their beautiful green and brown and purple lives. I may not abolish landfills by reducing my input into them, but I abolish apathy and increase hope and connection to the Way of the Earth.

I am still contributing to the "bad" inputs because that cardboard had to be manufactured, which even if it was recycled (it didn't say, so I presume not), still required fuels and machines to make it into how it arrived into my home. The coffee I drink still required fuels to transport it to me from far away (coffee trees do not grow in Denver). Etc. But I'm alive and my cats are alive and being alive is not a sin - it's not evil for the lion to exist or the snake to exist or the buffalo to exist - and alive, physical beings need to eat and poop and have warmth and all the other things that go along with having a body. Being overwhelmed with guilt serves no one and solves nothing; and deciding to be like Thanos and thinking that the only way to fix it is for half of everything to die isn't any more natural than the plastic bag filled with styrofoam: no other creature overtakes its environment and then says, "Ope, I fucked up, time for us all to die in a sacrificial penance!" Other animals and plants overrun their environments all the time, it's just that humans have done it on a global scale. Either nature culls said species back, they adapt, or the environment adapts - or all three.

Humans are currently doing all three: we're dying in mega-storms, floods, droughts, heat waves, famines, etc.; we're adapting both beneficially (such as figuring out permaculture systems and healing landscapes) and long-term harmfully but helps us survive in the short term (such as just air conditioning all our habitats, which causes more warming); and the environment is adapting - we just may not be able to live in the way She becomes different (and certainly other species as well - we're in the sixth mass extinction, after all). We're not killing Earth or nature, we're killing an environment well-suited for humans (and many other species that have evolved to fit into it). This has happened before on our planet, albeit from other causes; new life took over again. It simply remains to be seen if humans will be a part of that future, or not.

oxalis pruning.jpg
future dirt food!

I was born into a time and culture that is very out of sync with the system it grew out of; I can either a) be oblivious or nihilistic about that - either way, the effect is the same - and fiddle while Rome burns, or b) I can give a shit and educate myself and try to find my way back to synchronicity and fight for the rest of us to realign, too. The latter path can be hard. It isn't easy to go against the current, and we are bombarded with messages constantly telling us to either numb our pain with stuff or to feel so guilty about existing in the world at all and requiring things to continue doing so that it chips away at our soul or actually kills us. Do you think the lion feels guilty over eating the gazelle, or that the mistletoe feels bad about killing the oak tree? I'm sure the gazelle or the oak would rather live, but that too is the cycle. One day we will die, and barring some horrifying modern embalming and sealing in a particleboard and plastic coffin, our bones or our ashes will feed the dirt, just the same as my compost pail does now.

I will chip in to the big fights as I can, but I will also fight the little fights. I will take responsibility for the things that enter into my realm of care. I will feed my soil, and tend my plants, and love my cats, and hug my trees. I will plant acorns and carry cloth bags and cut up cardboard. I will not feel guilt that my body needs what it needs, or think that I know better than a system that took millions of years to fine tune. I will allow myself to feel hope and anger and grief and loss, but most importantly, love. I will love the beautiful world I was born into, even if the culture is ass backwards and broken. I will love the broken parts until we heal them or I die. I am part of the immune system of our massive human body of beings, and sometimes those little fighter cells win, sometimes they don't, and sometimes they die in the effort. But always they fight until either the battle is won, or the larger organism is dead. And y'all, we are not dead yet. Fight on.

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Comments 13

You covered all that beautifully. Every time I was thinking I could add something, you covered it in the next sentence. :D

Sometimes I think that we can be made to feel so guilty about the bits that we do waste which are beyond our control, when the biggest volumes of pollution and waste comes from big companies. Short of living like a caveman, we can't really avoid contributing via support of these companies. So I like your last message, don't give in to the guilt, just do what you can until you return to the earth yourself.

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13.07.2019 01:51

A lot of people, in this and many things, get very all-or-nothing about it. Like if you can't 100% escape it and live like a caveman, then you're a hypocrite for trying to make things better. I literally saw a guy harassing those of us who went to a climate protest that if we drove or rode a bus there, then we used gas and are hypocrites.
Like, dude, when cars took over, people weren't hypocrites for dreaming of a car while they still rode a horse. You can't exit the system you are trying to change just because you want to change it. Progress and change happen, it's just a matter of choosing which progress or how it happens. And if you did somehow manage to exit the system first, you'd get, "Oh what do you know, you live in a cave! You aren't part of this system! Your opinion doesn't count!"
Some people just fear change, and so try to invalidate anyone who wants change, any way they can.

So yeah, some days I am contacting companies and telling them to change, or politicians. Some days I am going to a protest. Some days I am cutting up cardboard. And some days I do nothing much of anything, because we all need rest. I'm very low waste, but not zero waste. I cook from scratch, but am no longer a vegan because that's impossible with all my allergies. I do what I can, but I realize that perfection is the enemy of the good - and as you say, even if I lived like a caveman, the oil companies and coal companies and whoever would go on polluting without me doing a lot more damage than my small contribution ever would have.
So yeah - don't feel guilt for the system we were born into. Just do what you can until you return to the Earth yourself, exactly. :)

13.07.2019 02:18

When people travelled in to help protect the river from the pipeline some tried to use the hypocrite play, "If you've travelled in by any vehicle not powered by yourself then you've proven the need for a pipeline." My reply was that if they hadn't been able to get so many people from far afield, then they wouldn't have stood a chance anyway. It was only the fact that they got so many protestors and world wide attention that they actually managed to stop them undermining that part of the river. You're not going to get enough people together in one place without having them travel in, but the chances are they'll use as few vehicles as possible.

I realize that perfection is the enemy of the good

Isn't that the truth! Aim for improvement, by all means, but don't get caught up trying to do the impossible.

13.07.2019 08:27

This is a very well written post!

13.07.2019 03:15

Thank you! :)

13.07.2019 04:15

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15.07.2019 21:25

Wow, thank you so much! <3

15.07.2019 22:47

You are right about this.

we are bombarded with messages constantly telling us to either numb our pain with stuff or to feel so guilty about existing in the world at all and requiring things to continue doing so that it chips away at our soul or actually kills us

Extremes are bad and it never made more sense than on the environmental issues. We can't be so careless that we accelerate the destruction process we've subjected our planet to, nor can we be so touchy to pretend that everybody will practice Jainism or else.

I think that simple things like making good fertilizers our of "trash" can make a difference and if politicians and big corporations really cared about life, they'd be funding innitiatives to make pollution virtually impossible.
The ideas are out there, the human talent, and the potential to follow movements that translate into benefits for everybody.

16.07.2019 21:24

and if politicians and big corporations really cared about life, they'd be funding innitiatives to make pollution virtually impossible.

Right? How is anyone supposed to believe they care about people and life at all when they prevent stopping pollution, and give polluters tax breaks and deregulate them? They're poisoning the world because it makes them super rich. They think they can buy their way out of the consequences.

16.07.2019 22:51

very interesting reading. You are very right in many aspects ... this part in specific is something that I have always said and I expose when a topic of conversation arises: "The latter path can be hard. It is not easy to go against the current, and we are bombarded with messages constantly telling us to either numb our pain with stuff"

16.07.2019 21:44

Thanks! :) Keep fighting the good fight!

16.07.2019 22:53

We will all chip on the big fights but there's definetely something small we can do in our own small corner of the world and brighten things. Much love

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17.07.2019 22:06