In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Turning the compost piles

I have mostly neglected the compost piles since April, when I built a new base out of the dead ferns I raked away from the stone walls. After that I have only dumped the garbage pail and weeds from the garden, and once in a while flipped some of the bottom-dwelling stuff up to the top. The piles became unwieldy, and sometimes I saw a snake going in and out. After a while it got to the point that when I walked past them I preferred to look in some other direction.

Who knows why the snake had grown in my imagination into a writhing furious nest that would seek my harm. My imagination sometimes works that way. When I finally addressed the compost piles yesterday, the reality was modest and benign. I found one snake, a darkly glistening maritime garter. She had recently shed her old skin and left it behind on top of the heap. She was surprised to have her cover blown and immediately moved into the second pile. Later in the day she had to move again, into the third pile. This morning I will work on that pile and disturb her for a last time. She seems to take life as it comes. Probably she does not waste her time on imaginary dangers. Maybe she will move back to the first pile. If she does she will find it much improved.

At the water's edge, eelgrass lay darkly glistening in a sinuous line where the high tide had left it behind.
I gathered it along with broken branches of rockweed, washed-up gleanings from the work of the rockweed harvesters. I carried big armloads of the stuff from the rocks to the cart-- some of it dried and brittle, some wet and gelatinous, huge portions of dripping black and brown noodles, containing essence of sea.

I moved each compost heap from one side of its bin to the other, lifting its material with the pitchfork and layering it with seaweed. Released to the air, it smelled good -- damp and rich, like essence of earth. I uncovered plenty of worms, who unlike the snake have no need to move anywhere. They are already completely at home in an artisanal mix of decomposing ferns, woodstove ash, eggshells, tea bags, potato peelings, apple cores, peavines, dock, clover, eelgrass, rockweed, and bits of sea sponge with a dash of snakeskin.

The task I dreaded turned out to be nothing but pleasure, intensely absorbing, more like play than work. Turning the compost piles revealed an entrance into another of the hidden dimensions that lie everywhere here, waiting to be noticed. I have apprenticed myself to the worms and am now a devoted novice brewer of planetary essences: earth, sea, fog, tide, sun, rain, time.

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