Communal composting: Scenes from the town compost site
By Patricia Baer
I have developed a slight fixation with our town’s compost site. I look forward to visiting it each time I mow the yard, mostly because it gives me a sense of closure to the process. I know I should learn how to attach my mulching tool since it would be better for my lawn, but I kind of like bagging it old school, and I usually have a fair amount of branches to clean up thanks to the two ancient trees that shade my backyard, so the side trek would be needed anyway.
A sort of, “Ha, take that, Green Monster. You did not defeat me this time,” sensation overcomes me as I empty the contents of my bag before limping back to the car feeling wrung out and wondering whether I should just burn my sweat-drenched, stinky T-shirt rather than attempt to wash it. My visit to the compost heap is what I imagine heading off to the locker room must feel like after finishing a hard-won game. At that moment with empty bag in hand, the hot shower seems like the greatest invention ever created, and I have never earned something more.
My first trip to the site was an eerie experience. The timing was such that the place appeared abandoned. My bags of leaves and I were its only visitors, and the place immediately gave me a glimmer of inspiration for the opening scene of a horror movie. It was an overcast day, and the tower of branch-trimming debris loomed ominously to block an outside view of whatever dastardly deeds were occurring inside the center of the site — or so I imagined at the time.
Since then I have come to see it as a friendly indicator of the lawn maintenance season. At first there were mounds of weathered, dry leaves from uncovering plants protected for the winter or folks like me who did not quite finish their cleanup in the fall. Then wilted leaves were replaced by initial yard clippings as the ground thawed. Eventually, I encountered gardeners collecting the fertile mulch and hauling it away. The roped-off section grew smaller from the action.
Instead of the small town mafia dumping ground my vivid imagination created, I discovered it is a meeting place of sorts. Like running into a familiar face at the grocery store or post office, folks stop and chat as they begin or end their weekend trek to the site. There is usually at least one person talking through the open window of a truck with a fellow recycler standing nearby. I wonder sometimes if anyone is exchanging status reports on their tomato plants or if it is all just regular catch up and grapevine gossip. I have not gotten close enough to eavesdrop. I fear my wafting stench would be a conversation stopper.
I still think it would make an excellent location for shooting a climactic movie scene though, if only I could imagine the rest of script.