There’s something a bit surreal about walking through the woods, looking for the place where you will be buried. In most respects, it’s just like any other late-afternoon hike in the woods – peaceful, relaxing, away-from-it-all – the only sound, that of crickets, birds, and a lone frog. But there’s also that heightened awareness — spiritual radar, if you will – scanning for just the right energy, just the right frequency.
That, and the fact that every so often, you catch a glimpse of a subtle, engraved, natural stone that indicates – through a name, some dates, perhaps a brief saying – that someone else, is already buried there.
… Here’s a place that feels OK. But I move on. Here’s another that might be alright … yet I remain restless, and the hike continues. Down a winding path, to a creek whose gentle flow I had been hearing through the trees. Ramsey Creek. Some rocks create a small “waterfall,” maybe a couple of feet high. I love waterfalls. But again, this just doesn’t feel quite right.
So I begin to ascend, once again – this time, taking a different path. I stop for a moment when I notice a simple flat stone that reads “Thank you Nature – Evelyn.” The iconic image that is included in the beautiful green burial documentary “A Will for the Woods.” I sit down on the other side of the path and rest, paying my respects to Evelyn, and pondering how – though I did not know her – I have something profound and, yes, something eternal in common with her. Something more than merely being human and being mortal (though that would be enough). I think we share the feeling of being called to go against the grain of modern American culture, and be buried in the old way.
I spend some time, communing with Evelyn, and with the Nature to which she was so grateful – and so connected. And then I continue up the hill.
As the terrain levels out, I realize the sun is now slanting at a lower angle through the trees. I listen carefully, and can hear the creek in the distance. I look across a ravine, and see nothing but forest – stately, old-growth trees interspersed with younger trees and understory growth, the occasional flowering bush or shrub, mushrooms and moss.
A young pine tree, somewhat shorter than I am, catches my eye. An open space, covered with leaves and pine cones, next to the trail beckons me. I sit down once more – and immediately feel at peace. At home. And I know: This is it.
I have found the spot where I would want to be buried. The spot where I can envision my family and loved ones, every so often, coming to sit, just like I am, right now.
Maybe I will be buried here. Maybe I won’t. There remain other places to explore. South Carolina is a long way from Ohio. I still hope to one day create a natural burial sanctuary like Ramsey Creek – and thus, perhaps, my own permanent resting place – in Southwest Ohio, where I have lived for more than a dozen years.
But sitting here now, I am awash with a sense of profound, deep peace – knowing that my quest to return naturally to the earth, in a way that can help sustain and steward the ecosystem, may ultimately be fulfilled. Maybe even in this very spot.
It is good to know where you are going.