While out walking the beasts this morning, I walked past an apartment block that had just fertilised their garden. It must have been the ‘blood and bone’ type of fertiliser as the smell jolted me back to me childhood.
My mum was a keen gardener who often used this particular type of plant food. I have many memories of her out in the front (and back) yard in her shorts or torn up jeans working the soil with her hands and tools, potting and re-potting, weeding and watering. Giving things life and turning our front yard into a mini-tropical forest. I remember trying to join her on a number of occasions but I never really got into it. My experience with plants is that I send them to an early grave (through love or forgetfulness, mind you, not pure spite). Even now, she keeps a nice garden and grows some of her own veggies. Damn her.
On many occasions, I expressed my childish displeasure at the horrible smell that had taken over my mum’s usually fantastic garden. In return for my complaints, I would be subjected to a long lecture about manure, compost and other smelly things and how good they are for plants. I remember thinking, “Plants be damned! Nothing’s worth this smell!” but I soon got used to it. It was just how things were in our house. Every now and again, our yard would be stinky and I wouldn’t invite friends over.
Today, the smell of the fertiliser actually took me to a pretty grim place. Firstly, I thought about the animals that would have died for that fertiliser (whether they died specifically for the fertiliser or not, part of them eventually ended up there). Then I thought about the sheer macabre-ness of plants needing that kind of food. Here we are trying to save the animals by eating more plants but even the plants need animals to truly thrive. I know, I know, it’s the nitrogen they need (I think) and they can probably get this from just straight up manure but, somehow, the blood and bone stuff makes it extra special.
But my brain didn’t stop there. It then made the “natural” connection with olden day battlefields. What happens when you have a huge plot of land where hundreds or thousands of people were injured, died and were possibly buried? Did this make that swatch of land extra fertile? Did vibrant flowers and luscious crops then spring forth from the earth, all thick and bursting with the life that bled out in the grass? I’m thinking of places where there was trench warfare in WWI or WW2 or the big battlefields of the US Civil War or Revolution or even the Napoleonic Wars.
As I said, I went to a dark place. But there’s also something deeply comforting about the thought of spilt blood nourishing new life. That one person or animal’s death can mean continued life through flowers and plants and then also humans and other animals (who eat the plants). It’s the circle of life *cue uplifting Lion King music*. And yes, while any life lost is a sad thing, the fact that, in the natural cycle of things (when you die and are buried in the ground, not cremated or put in a coffin, etc.), you go back into the earth, are consumed by it and are then consumed is very comforting.
It kind of feels like a gentle form of immortality, but a subtle, no-pressure-to-perform kind. Also, if they have these things where you could one day turn yourself into a one-person tree feeder, I think my line of thinking is on the right track. Roll them out, I say. They look super-cool and I would definitely like to be a part of a sacred forest or memory park.
Image credit: Prose and Constellations