Finding My Place

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.

Path into the woods
Path into the woods at Ramsey Creek

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 – 20150911_181610I 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.

my spot best picture

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.