Monday, October 18, 2010

Dispatches from Raking the Crapper

"There's water in there?"
"It's okay, you can go."
"I think I'll just go number one."
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A few months ago a friend of mine that lives at O.U.R. Ecovillage in British Columbia went with her three-year-old daughter to the city. After a while her daughter had to "go number two" and my friend took her into a restaurant bathroom. At the Ecovillage, as at D-Acres, drinking glasses hold drinking water and toilets do not. The little girl was perplexed by the water in the restaurant toilet because she did not understand where her poop would go: understandably, few of us do. She ultimately compromised and was willing to pee, just to test the waters.
Some guests of mine here at D-Acres were similarly perplexed by the Clivus Multrum composting toilet. We request that guests refrain from peeing in this toilet as much as possible. It disrupts the composting process and can make the humanure putrid smelling and soupier than anyone wants to deal with. Aside from memories from the farms of aunts and uncles long ago, they were experienced exclusively with the municipal sewage system and the flushing toilets that creep up like more mouths to feed at the ends of pipes in each home. A similar dialogue ensued beween my guests and me as the one between my friend and her three-year-old daughter:
"Try not to pee in the toilets because..."
"Well then where do we pee?"
"The land is yours."
"I'm not sure I can do that..." One replied.
A flushing toilet or the land that is the toilet of every living creature can be a source of discomfort and confusion or of comfort and pleasure. Age is not so much a matter as experience. Everyone is forced to see their true reflection, not in a mirror, but in the glop that was yesterday's dinner; and no Narcissus will emerge from that vision. There is instead, humbleness to be found in assuming responsibility for one's fecal matter. Gradually, approximately at the rate the poo piles, a recognition of oneself, a life history from meal to meal and those meals' return to the earth is ingested, digested, and nourishes an understanding that the self does not begin or end in the body, but interfaces continously with the world and can nourish it as much as it nourishes us.
What I have found is that phenomena that are unfamiliar seem unhygenic and threatening. The impulse is as valuable as it can be pervasive. For most of my life, the toilet bowl was my only relationship to a daily product of my body. My idea of feces was pervaded with that threat of the unfamiliar. My friend's little daughter was not naive to be fearful of defecating into a vortex of potable water. She has the wisdom intact to be threatened not by unfamiliarity from inexperience, but with something she could never become familiar with - the endless network of pipes and mechanisms that daily carry parts of us away to some remote accountability.
The litte lever mechanism connected to a chain in the back of a porcelain bowl that I have struggled with in exasperated efforts to keep toilets flushing is symptomatic of a struggle much deeper within myself and in all who share this experience. The struggle is the story of the work for money to afford a porcelain bowl, a septic system, taxes for municipal sewage... It is the rupture with reality that occurs with when we flush. Like the distrustful hilarity that ensues at a magician's sleight of hand, it is hard to trust that that poop went to a better place for us or anyone else, that it was not some sort of trick.
Soil makes all. Poop makes soil...not just cow poop and horse poop, but human poop as well. And when I rake the fecal mountain in the "digester" chamber in the basement here, it is clear that we make a lot of soil. The world we encounter - friends, neighbors, food, wine, laughter - are all articulations of poop. Enjoyment of life throughout a lifetime is also an articulation of poop so long as it is allowed to nourish the earth where it began its journey. So, don't shit where you eat. This is true. But, don't shit too far from where you eat.

- Robby Mellinger: Intern

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