Politics & Compost
(Edited) (The compost and I have both cooled down and are now ready)
Two events coincided, back in Old New York.
Both ripe with symbolism, rife with significance, and laden with historical import.
It was Primary Day, and also the day my father, a gardener, turned over his winter compost bins.
The comparison is obvious and inescapable.
It’s a stinky business, but we hope some good will come out of it.
“What a filthy job.” “Could be worse.” “How?” “Could be raining politicians.”
One of the benefits of composting, is that if you do it right, the process of fermentation, decomposition, or whatever all those bacteria and microbes are getting up to, will generate enough heat to cook the weed seeds, and kill them, so the weeds don’t sprout in your garden. I don’t pretend to understand it scientifically – but based on some really memorable stenches in the past, if you aerate it, you get a nice humus-y smell, like a damp woods. If you fail to aerate it, you get a horrible sewage smell.
So you need a little oxygen. Turn things over, mix ’em up, get some fresh air in there.
New Yorkers know the poem “…huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
No, I’m not equating immigrants with discarded banana peels and coffee grounds. But my father, who endlessly points out that we’re descendants of evicted peasants, takes great joy in his compost, and probably wouldn’t object to the comparison, since he regards the process of producing rich, healthy compost from scraps and leftovers as almost magical and nearly sacred. The turning of the heap is a major ceremony, usually coming on the lunar calendar right before planting peas by the full moon. Compost is probably as close to a religion as he gets.
Whether decomposing potato peels, or political ferment, it takes some effort.
You need to stir things up. Aerate it once in a while.
“Anaerobic” means “living without air.” And in my non-scientific understanding, that’s what produces the really bad smells. And sometimes fungus, when things are kept in the dark and fed manure, like the old saying about politics or mushrooms.
As long as you keep things stirred up, aerated and in the sunshine once in a while, it doesn’t hurt to add a few layers of animal waste, meaning, a few cow pies get tossed in, if a pasture is close by, to create a really fantastic, steaming pile, like a tiny volcano.
I’m not naming names for this particular analogy of cow manure and rabble-rousing.
But we’re not just poo-flinging monkeys. We come down out of the trees, and grow things.
Compost is wonderful stuff. But take it from me, you don’t want to climb around down in the bottom of the compost bin. Maybe they’re beneficial bacteria and all that, but they’re still slimy lower life forms, and they stink.
Hey, it’s finally spring. Forget the microbial and political lowlifes. Time to wash our dirty linen, in public, and if we’re going to shovel some…”organic cow fertilizer,” why not spread it out in the sun, and we’ll grow a few flowers. Maybe a compost heap is kind of magical, after all. It gives you faith that with garbage, and a process that sometimes smells to high heaven, we can still end up with something really worthwhile.
2 thoughts on “Primary Day in New York. The Politics of Compost.”
Hey, I think I’m getting better at this literary interpretation thing. I’m pretty sure I got the subtext in this one. 🙂
My readers recognize me as a complex and subtle guy. Or annoying, that’s the other reaction.