Farm & Garden

The Beauty of Compost

March 11, 2020

Since I got into farming a few years ago, I have been drawn to the colors, textures, and shapes found in a pile of compost. To me, this pile of scraps is an abundant heap of design elements waiting to be discovered. But recently, I’ve come to find that the beauty of the discarded runs […]

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“Compost” Illustration by Liz Brindley

Since I got into farming a few years ago, I have been drawn to the colors, textures, and shapes found in a pile of compost. To me, this pile of scraps is an abundant heap of design elements waiting to be discovered. But recently, I’ve come to find that the beauty of the discarded runs deeper.

The pile of compost I so admire starts with a seed planted in spring soil by eager hands worn and weathered from the time it takes to tend the land. This seed carries hope, intention, and the promise of possibility. As the season rushes forward and the days become longer and the sun hotter, the seed turns into a sprout which turns into a gift of food from the earth.

This food is harvested and transferred from farms to the familiarity of my kitchen where I create a pile of scraps as I peel back the coating on citrus and slip off skins of garlic to reveal the fruits I’m after, the essence I seek in a moment of eager hunger. This pile grows larger as I chop and cut and slice and sauté.

Before I know it, a small mountain of fragments has formed and, in between my attention drifting from tasks that need tending to the food that is simmering, I’ve almost forgotten to pause to admire the pile of pieces before passing them back to the earth in a gift of reciprocity for the food I’ve received.

I must stop to recognize the beauty of these delicate remnants that were once encased in seeds held by the soil that became shells and skins holding produce in protective embrace.

Without this moment of recognition, I can become so consumed with consumption that I forget to turn to compost to be reminded that creativity balances destruction. Without this recognition, I forget that I, too, am part of these cycles of shedding and releasing and ending to find new beginning. Without this recognition, I forget that what was used up can be useful for new life.

As I scoop up the scraps to dump them into the pile, I’m reminded that transformation takes time. This compost will pass into the next version of itself in a process of patience sprinkled with parts of the past that no longer fit the present.

The scraps seem to shift their shapes with an effortless ease that allows change to carry them back to their beginning.

It is suddenly spring again, and I sprinkle the soil and seeds with this old life to form new life and continue on in connection with nature’s cyclical rhythms.

To enjoy the beauty of compost each day, get your own print of the “Compost” illustration featured at the top of this post right here.

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