Sunday, March 12, 2006

inspiration comes in strange places

Warning: composting toilet talk ahead. You've been warned.

I'm feeling more confident in my "spirituality", for lack of a better term, these days than I think I ever have been. I feel okay admitting I don't know all the answers, even though I'm pretty sure of how I should lead my life. As for a God, no doubt, I can see it in the daily miracles of life around me. However, I don't believe this higher power is asking me to read a certain book, follow any particular practice, or identify with any organized religion. It just wants me to realize my abilities and live in harmony with the other species that inhabit this place. To do good things.

I found inspiration this morning in the music that surrounded me: The cacophony of about 5o evening grosbeaks with their shrill chirps filling the crowns of the trees; the welcome honking of Canada geese, back from a long winter journey; the spring songs of chickadees; and what I thought was the warbling song of the first bluebird of spring.

I found inspiration in just doing a job that needed to be done: I cleaned out the composting toilet. Yeah, I know, how does one possibly find inspiration in THAT?

The composting toilet is one of those port-o-johns we bought from a relative in the business when this place was a weekend cabin. This year, instead of adding liquid deodorizing chemicals, which really don't do the job and keep things an anaerobic, gooey mess, we just went with the bucket toilet idea and added wood shavings and sawdust with every deposit. Much more easy on our senses and the groundwater. We built a compost bin, and have been transporting the products there occasionally. Well, today things were starting to "top out", so armed with a spade and a bucket, I set out to make some space. No, it didn't stink; it smelled more like the wood shavings, until I got down towards the bottom where things were saturated and anaerobic. There had been enough warm weather so things weren't all frozen together. I ended up hauling about ten five-gallon buckets to the compost pile, where the stuff will hopefully heat up and break down into rich organic matter. Returned to the earth to build the soil, rather than flushed into the ground or into a wastewater treatment facility, then to a river. Instead of stepping aside of the cycle of life, I am in it up to my elbows, so to speak. And got some great exercise as well.

And how many folks can say they cleaned out the composting toilet, THEN went to church sevices? We hadn't been to church for months, but Starflower wanted to go and I went just to see how everyone is doing there. From my above writing, you may be surprised that I would set foot in a Christian church service at all, but I do care about the people there, who helped us out at a time when we needed it, without passing judgment or requiring anything in terms of a proclamation of faith. There were a lot of people there who were really genuinely happy to see us again, and I could say the same.

The service itself was somewhat lacking; I found myself biting my tongue and restraining myself at the too-right-wing interim pastor's sermon when he talked of how drunks and homosexuals would not get into the Kingdom of God, and how he referred to a tribe of Native Americans as "naked savages". arrrgh. And the second hymn was "Onward Christian Soldiers", probably my least favorite hymn, classified under the heading "Spiritual Warfare" in the hymnal. arrrgh. But I also found that when I am challenged like that, I tend to think about why it is I react the way I do, and the thought process helps me better to define my beliefs. So I get inspired, not in a raise-your-arms uplifting kind of way, but in a roundabout questioning way.

There you have it. I managed to work birds, humanure, and church into one post.


Dan Trabue said...

I think humanure and church go together hand-in-hand and in more ways than one.

But seriously...I like antique books and pick one up occasionally. I have an old history book that was written when the Civil War was fresh history (~1880s). It makes for an interesting read.

It talks quite unapologetically of women as "nags" and of the savages of the New World and their soul-less eyes, or somesuch.

Your preacher's words reminded me of that.

At least the history book authors' have in their defense that they lived in a different time. What's up with your preacher?!

Laura said...

Wow, I don't think I could sit through a service like that. Onward Christian Soldiers isn't even in our hymn book anymore. But then again, I don't know if I'd have the strength of conviction to walk out. I'd be worried about courtesy to those who have no other place of comfort. But do those people even exist? I think that's part of the reason I have decided not to pursue ordination. I am much freer to discuss, to push the boundaries of tradition and doctrine, when it's one-on-one and I can respond to the other's comfort level as I go.

clairesgarden said...

good work with the compost toilet, sometimes people don't like the sound of them, its just social conditioning. in this countrys' culture its advised just to use it on the flower/ornanmental garden, in europe its advised to use it on fruit trees only, in Malawi(the person I had this conversation with is from there) its always been use on the vegetables and fruit trees and is totally normal and they would never think of throwing it away with the trash because they are so poor they have no trash anyway!

Floridacracker said...

Nice post, much in common...well, not the shoveling poop part, but the other.

pablo said...

Well, I wouldn't have thought it could be done, but you successfully managed to tie those two disparate things together in a single, unified post.

That's why I keep coming back here!

Rurality said...

I was never that nuts about "Onward Christian Soldiers" either. But it did tend to wake you up a bit if the preacher was boring. :)

madcapmum said...

I agree with Dan, seems like a natural progression from manure to church. ;-)

You've almost got me persuaded, Deb. I'm pretty keen on running water in the kitchen, but keep talking and I might join the honey-bucket camp. Other than sawdust, what other materials can you use for "cover"?

Deb said...

dan- fortunately, he's just an interim pastor who doesn't preach every Sunday. They've had a rotating cast of interim pastors ever since they ran the last pastor out on a rail last year, which is part of the reason I haven't been attending church regularly. Next Sunday a good friend is preaching, and I expect his message will be 180 degrees different. By the way, I don't think I've read that Wendell Berry book you mentioned in your other comment; I need to catch up on my Berry reading some day!

Laura- I'm not quite at the comfort level with this congregation where I could get up and walk out, or challenge anything, but when they get around to hiring a new pastor (again) I want to have some say. Maybe I'll suggest Whollyman or Hipchickmama! :) And perhaps another way I could express my beliefs would be through performing music in church, which I have not done lately.

Clairesgarden- I figure, if we use composted horse and chicken manure on edible crops, why not humanure? To have raw sewage from thousands of individuals flowing through the streets and contaminating water is one thing, but to carefully compost the waste from one's own family and return it to food production seems perfectly okay to me.

FC- just as I suspected.

pablo- thanks!

rurality- Unfortunately that hymn is the "soundtrack du jour" in my head today!

madcap- Have you read "The Humanure Handbook" yet? The text is available free online at . We usually buy the wood shavings they sell for animal bedding, but I guess any dry, shredded or mulched material like leaves, grass clippings, etc. will work. And I will have running water in my new kitchen; we have a greywater system (basically a smaller scale septic) in the ground already for that.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

I like your description of your spirituality. I heard a friend here describe it as eco-spiritualism. I can relate to that. I am a firm believer in the astounding beauty of the universe, but I don't believe in a personal god at all. I can't imagine being in a church where the preacher railed against gays. What ever happened to the true sense of Christ in Christianity? Well, as has been said already, you did manage to put birds, humanure and the church together into a well-crafted post.

TroutGrrrl said...

There you have it. I managed to work birds, humanure, and church into one post.

Don't apologize for this Deb. That's why we all come here....

Gina said...

Hehe... great post! I agree, no apologies needed.

The Humanure Handbooks is definitely a "bible" around our house... ooops, wait, was THAT sacrilegious??

A valuable reference book, let's say. It's all part of the cycle for the unsqueamish among us!

Deb said...

RD- eco-spiritualism. I like that. If I would have waited and edited some more I would have added what I call the Universal Law that seems to show up across all religions: Do no harm. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The law of Karma. My spirituality is a very intuitive thing.

troutgrrrl- No apology here! Glad you keep coming back. And on another topic (or maybe not)I'm seriously thinking of taking up flyfishing soon; I'll know who to go to for answers to my questions!

Gina- When I first read it, it was nothing less than a major epiphany for me. Glad there are other "converts" around!

dragonfly183 said...

I'm not that good at biting my tounge. The "naked Savages" part would have been the last straw. The preacher wouldn't have been the only one preaching on that particular sunday.

I'm going to copy this bit about the compost toilet down for Bear to read. I'm still convincing him this is the best way to go for the new house.

heather said...

I don't think it is unusual to find inspiration when cleaning out the toilet. I do my best thinking when I am cleaning the horse stalls!