Herland Forest

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.

The graves are dispersed and deliberate, yet naturally intuitive. I’m not sure if “intuitive” is the right word but it’s the word that comes to mind. Everything just feels right.

 

 

Everything about the place is serene and inviting. I wondered around with some cameras and photographed as the spirit moved me.

Killing time at the campsite.

 

The labyrinth at Herland.

 

Natural Organic Reduction.

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.”

 

Just stuff around.

 

 

As we settled in for the night, Hawkeye kept watch over the dead people.

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.

Hawkeye, still vigilant regarding the dead, as we settled in for the second night.

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.

Gravesite embellishments are generally minimal and well thought out.

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.

Hey! That’s MY name!

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.”

 

I remember asking him who’s in the plot closest to mine. “Oh, that’s Ernie.” (Me: “Hi Ernie.”)

 

Each person is marked with a permanent metal tag.

 

Just more spirit-moving.

 

Transition.

 

My site, photographed using a resurrected Spartus 35.

 

Many hurdles were jumped in obtaining an image with the Tammy camera.

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.

Near me for all of eternity.

 

You know what’s weirder than picking out your spot? Finding that the spot you picked has been prepared for you. They dig the hole and put wood chips in it to prep them for your [hopefully] eventual arrival. I was worried the prepped spot was too short, so I tested it. It’s perfect!
Me on my plot. Photographed using the Canon Sure Shot Owl Marlboro.

 

My eternal view.

 

Canon Sure Shot Owl Marlboro.

 

Canon Sure Shot Owl Marlboro.

 

Canon Sure Shot Owl Marlboro.

 

An option other than simply natural burial is natural organic reduction. This is an NOR vessel. (Canon Sure Shot Owl Marlboro)

 

Canon Sure Shot Owl Marlboro. This is how the NOR vessels look today. I have no idea why these are the only shots the Canon took that have some sort of fogging on them.

I also used a Fujica 450. When I have the results from that I will post them.

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!

Here’s a link to Walt’s blog.

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.

6 Responses

  1. Thought provoking in a multidimensional way. Cool photos, especially the one capturing hovering spirits overseeing their own transitions and the one of you confirming you’ll fit comfortably in your personal forest nurturing spot. Humorous as always. Well done you. 😊

    1. I’m interested, too, in what people use to mark their graves. You don’t HAVE you put anything above you, but a lot of folks have put stones and benches for visitors to sit and enjoy the forest. Fuck that. I’m going to put one of those workout stations, like what you see in municipal parks and some KOAs. When you visit me, there’ll be no contemplating nature. You’re going to get a fucking workout! [Ok. This probably won’t really happen.]

  2. This has the feel of a serial, such as travelogue, or memoirs. It leaves you wanting to read just one more before light out.

  3. Marcy,
    Thanks for making light of a dark thing. Only you could remove the shroud that surrounds the dirt nap. No marble farm can contain you. I hope though, that when your time comes, you will have an Argus interred with you. It would still be there a hundred years later, marking the spot.

    1. Mark: SO funny you would say that about the Argus. I’ll send you a pic of my “headstone”. “Headbrick”?

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