By Alana Mirror, creator of This Wonderful World: a musical reality-show where love for ourselves, each other, and the Earth become one

Apr 21, 2023

We introduced Alana and her This Wonderful World project when she attended the Pollinator Pathway garden installation and created a series of three songs from that experience. Since then, she’s done a series of songs about the installation of Peace of Eden community garden at City Church Fairfield, and a series inspired by the Vallejo People’s Garden. This blog comes from her reflections from one of her songs inspired by the composting going on at Vallejo People’s Garden. We appreciate reposting it here with her permission.

No doubt something magical happens to life when we embrace the process of turning “what has been” into “what will become.” This is the mirror of composting.

Making this important soil amendment can be a smelly, dirty and all together gross process, but only when it’s out of balance. Healthy compost plies, in fact, don’t smell much at all. The microbes who break down the compost into soil need a balanced diet, just like the rest of us. You gotta work with it. If it starts getting smelly, there’s probably too much nitrogen-rich material (like kitchen scraps). But it’s an easy fix: all you gotta to is add some carbon-rich material (like dried leaves). If there’s too many insects, it probably just needs to be mixed a little better. If it’s taking too long to break down, it might benefit from a little more moisture. With attention and care, the transformational process of turning “what has been” into “what will become” doesn’t have to be gross. But, if it is, there’s always a way to correct it.

At the Vallejo People’s Garden, Ravi Shankar has been the head composter for 14 years. Trained as a “master composter,” I’ve never met anyone more enthusiastic about roly polies, worms, and microbes! Every week Ravi spends a few hours tending the compost, and he’s all in, literally! In his 60s, he jumps right into the compost bin as he uses his pitch fork to mix and turn it all up. He assesses what it needs to be balanced by gathering materials from the garden and by organizing the larger community’s contributions (such as shredded paper from a local office, coffee grounds from a local coffee shop, grass clippings from the neighborhood lawns, and even some folks’ kitchen scraps.) He absolutely loves it and swears that the work he does with the compost is the secret to what’s keeping him so fit, and so happy.

But he’s not the only one that benefits from his compost magic: the garden loves it! In fact, the compost is one of the Vallejo People’s Garden’s main tricks to growing so much good food for their community. It’s such magical stuff they sell this “Black Gold” to other gardeners.

It’s a reassuring metaphor for me as someone who’s going through my own personal transformation. In our rapidly changing world, it seems like every day I’m realizing parts of my life that aren’t serving the same purpose that they were meant to anymore. But, to have such a joyful metaphor of composting helps me to remember that change can be a process that enlivens and enriches life. Ravi’s enthusiastic leadership helps me to jump right into the transformational process where stinky and buggy doesn’t mean failure, it’s just a call to adjust. Everything that we’ve done in our lives (even the bits that we regret ) can serve a larger purpose when we embrace the messy process of change with the same vigor that Ravi takes to his beloved compost. No doubt change can hurt sometimes, but at least there’s hope in what can come of it.

May we all find the gifts in our discarded bits.

Follow the Vallejo People’s Garden on Instagram here and on Facebook here

This Wonderful World is the latest production from Alana’s greater work, called The Living Mirror Project, a creative practice that generates peace by seeing ourselves in everything.

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