Editorial: At one with the earth, at last

via reshmillpreserve.com
Via Reshmillpreserve.com

Conservation easements and wildlife habitat, subjects of recent Rappahannock News stories, are not the only ways to preserve the county’s open spaces. Here’s another:

Conservation burial! It’s an idea about which I just learned from Tom Horton, long-time Baltimore Sun reporter and author of six books on the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Contemplating his own demise, he says, “I always figured on cremation — modest expense, no concrete, bronze and embalming chemicals in the earth; friends and family would enjoy scattering the ashes in cool places I’d enjoy designating.”

But, as he found on a 66-acre farm near Baltimore, there’s another, greener way — “giving back to the land … atoning somewhat for living well and unsustainably like most of my fellow Americans.” You simply bequeath your body back to the land — dust to dust — with no embalming fluids, no fancy coffin that will never decay, no stone monument, and none of cremation’s greenhouse gases and mercury.

I remember that’s what my stepfather, Rappahannock River conservationist Randy Carter, wanted — to be buried on his Free State cabin land near the river that he loved. Nothing fancy, just in a plain shroud or simple pine box. Instead, for the last 40 years, he’s been stuck in the Warrenton Cemetery. That his simple request could not have been honored is something I regret to this day.

The conservation burial place in Maryland, Resh Mill Farm, will charge about $3,000 per burial, making it competitive with cremation. The money will pay off the farm’s purchase price but also provide for restoring the landscape to its natural state, such as native plantings. Plus a tidy profit margin is projected.

“The humility and the connectedness” of joining with the bodies of others, not to mention their cash, is an appealing notion, says Horton, with one’s final resting place being “nowhere, yet everywhere in the landscape.” He adds that “in life it’s hard for modern humans to live peaceably with the rest of nature. But in death, the possibilities seem bright.”

I wonder if a Resh Mill Farm could ever happen in Rappahannock County? If so, count my body in.

Walter Nicklin