Death is a common ground where we’re all headed. I’m going to die, feed a tree and save a forest. I’m all set.
It was Hipcamp that brought me to Herland. In looking for a campsite, not too far – no too close, the forest is what first drew me. As the listing states, the camp is “located in a transitional zone where you’ll see Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine growing side by side among century-old oak trees.” Little did I know when I first began reading that “transitional” really, really, really meant “transitional”. There’s a campground in a natural burial cemetery? I’m in! It’s a unique spot with a unique purpose.
When we arrived that first time in May of 2021 we met Walt Patrick, president and trustee of the Windward Foundation (the foundation that, among other things, oversees the non-profit natural burial cemetery). He showed us the campground, answered questions and left us to the peace and quiet of the forest. Now if you’re conjuring up a scene like The Body Farm in Tennessee, you’d be dead wrong.
Everything about the place is serene and inviting. I wondered around with some cameras and photographed as the spirit moved me.
In addition to offering enhanced natural burial, Herland was the first place in the country where you could be composted via Natural Organic Reduction (NOR). These are the “vessels” used to make it happen. It’s a labor intensive process, or at least it seemed that way to me – lots of shoveling of wood chips, and temperature monitoring, etc. It takes a while to compost a body but, as Walt says, “People are going to be dead for a long time. There really isn’t any hurry to get this done. We’d much rather take our time and get it done right.”
I’ve been a fan of Thomas Lynch’s writing. In his books THE UNDERTAKING and BODIES IN MOTION AND AT REST Lynch writes about the funeral industry becoming big business.
I’d thought about cremation, but really been interested in natural burial. Though I hadn’t looked into it much, you know, since I won’t need it for another 80 years or so, right? I assumed green burial wasn’t easily available to the masses. (Masses of us future dead folk anyway, I guess.)
After that first visit to Herland I laughed at myself for being amazed that you can actually get yourself buried in a natural way. I mean, why was I surprised? Folks have been interred this way for a gazillion years. It wasn’t until the advent of the modern funeral industry that we were led to believe embalming, or even cremation, was normal.
We stayed at the campground at Herland a couple of nights.
Our second visit was in September of 2021. I wanted to be buried in Herland. Not that day, but eventually. The cost ($3,000 total) certainly wasn’t of grave concern.
Selecting my own grave site felt only kinda weird. On the first day of our second visit I wondered around, thinking about it. I didn’t feel I could go wrong making my selection anywhere within this forest. Selection day came and, at the death nell, I picked a spot.
I pointed it out to Walt and he said, with a gleam in his eye, “Well, if you’re dead set on it.”
Me, “I’d be eternally grateful.”
The 3rd visit:
When you purchase a natural burial plot you, your friends and family can camp at Herland for free. However, it ain’t no Thousand Trails. It’s a place where the land is legally protected from commercial development. Bob & I brought a couple of friends along on our third visit. We managed to kill a bottle of rye.
Say yes to the shroud.
You don’t need to be buried inside a coffin. You can go in the ground without a thing on or you can be wrapped in a shroud. Naturally, there are guidelines to follow regarding material in which you can be buried. I found a really informative website with shroud info and patterns. It’s Canadian, yet I could understand it. I think I’ll keep it simple with a cotton sheet for a shroud, but I might do a cyanotype on silk one day? (I had contemplated recreating the shroud of Turin, but that would probably be more offensive than funny – though I’d be laughing, you know it!)
I’ve been thinking about my memorial and how I want it undertaken. Oh! A playlist! I’ve been creating a playlist on Pandora, which hopefully won’t have expired by the time I do..
And then there’s my obituary, which I wrote.
” ‘The woman was a saint.’ said no one.”
Always good to be ready.
For more info visit Herland’s website. It’s a good one!
The forest is beautiful and well worth saving. I almost can’t wait to die. I feel like an organ donor for all of eternity.