The Swirling Dust of 88 Graves

Over the weekend I answered the call to assist in digging a grave with fellow death doula Andrea (Golden Willow Doula) at the White Eagle Memorial Preserve at Ekone Ranch.

She had been there for several days and had already dug one grave and assisted with a green burial. Upon receiving the request to dig another and considering the soreness of her muscles, she gave me a call to lighten the work and spend some long overdue time together. I packed up my shovel and set out on my journey to not only make my first greetings with the land, but to become fully immersed in the experience of the place. Cemetery and conservation director Jodi Buller greeted me at her cabin adorned with bones and giant sunflowers, and Andrea joined me shortly after.

The first day was spent digging and tending to a couple of graves which had sunken a bit. In traditional cemeteries this is avoided by encapsulating the casket in a large cement vault, but is so easily remedied in natural burial grounds by removing the topsoil and adding some earth to even out the grounds and restore beauty to the grave itself through the gathering and arranging of the natural adornments of the landscape. We called it a day as the sun descended and I spent the night nestled in my sheepskin in an empty wooden cabin, bathed in the starlight from the window above me.

I awoke early to the sounds of roosters crowing. The way their calls echoed throughout the hills gave the sound a beautifully haunting resonance. I brought my coffee and my instrument to the steps of the cabin overlooking the hills and offered some songs of my own. I finished my coffee while saying good morning to the horses and goats. Ruth Bader Goatsburg and I shared a silent appreciation of the beautiful dawning day as I scratched her head and her younger counterparts bleated at me from the sidelines.