You know when you have an idea, and you want to hold it close, but then you realize that it would need so much community and financial support to make happen that withholding it until you have the resources to pull it off is just ridiculous. This is an idea like, that and one that I want to be a part of designing and creating before I die.
The Vision: A collective purchase of land that is sectioned off to be a wilderness preservation site, a natural/green burial ground, a hospice center for people so they do not have to die on opiates in hospitals. It would also be an outdoor sculpture garden with cabins for visitors.
This vision is about giving back, regeneration, and creating final experiences for people so they don't have to die and have their bodies processed in a way that is not in line with their values. I believe the collective purchasing model or a foundation purchase would help make this possible, and repeatable in various areas of the world.
Wilderness Burial Grounds are not new concepts, but they are regaining popularity for ecological, psychological, and spiritual reasons. I'm connected to the White Eagle wilderness burial grounds and I recently heard about Herland as well. These locations are inspiring and examples of models that work and are close examples of this vision. It's so important that we investigate why our current death practices are the way they are and redesign them to be healthier for heart, the planet, and families. Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul by Stephen Jenkinson is a gem of a book about death in general including a historical look into some cultural elements that are missing for the human communities for the first time in thousands of years. Personally, I feel that after all of the earth's resources that it takes to sustain my life, the least I can do is give my body back to the earth so it may feed new life. I'd prefer to do this without being pumped full of preservatives and without eleborate casings to keep me from quickly decomposing. Decomposing naturally and non toxically is accepting that we die, which is something our culture is trying to deny on many levels with current death practices.
Wilderness Burial Grounds are also places where my remaining loved ones can find where my bones are, and realize that they are connected to a place, a spirit, an existence because their ancestors are. I do not want to be connected with in a linear, square, field of ego stones and fake flowers, and I know that others feel the same way. As more family and friends and individuals start facing and honoring death as a part of life, I foresee the rise of natural/green burial grounds and country hospice centers.
Where do you want to die?
Another component of this vision is a hospice center that allows people to pass away in an environment they would prefer rather than in hospitals and urban care centers. Maybe I wouldn't care then, but now I know I would like to die leaning against an oak tree or in one of my canvas tents with sunshine and dappled leaves shining through the creamy walls.
Creating intentional hospice centers for final experiences allows the dying to experience their death and not be drugged out of it. I imagine hospice centers with clear declarations: their intentions are not to sedate the dying with drugs and capitalize financially on this process. I believe people want this, even if they don't value their death experience at this moment.
As I understand more about death and dying, I realize that so much of it is about the family and the grief process. I would like to see an outdoor art installation area that serves as a completive space for the dying and their families. I see that space as a way to connect with the unconscious using art and symbol to help people see a broader perspective in their grief and suffering. I see the installations as thematically intentional and designed with interactive spaces, such as art forms that allow someone to mediate or lay down and look at the stars. Ideally, I would love some of this art to have ecologically regenerative elements, such as art that encourages plant growth, or deals with the themes of decomposition in a beautiful way. That is what this is about, creating soulful beauty around our decomposition and regeneration on this stunning earth.
Here is some outdoor sculpture garden inspiration: http://www.sculptureinthewild.com/home.html
If you are interested in connecting about this idea, please reach out. This dream requires a community to put into action. Chelsea@ecocreativestrategies.com
Mindo Lago is a project of ecological restoration, an event space, and a hotel in Mindo, Ecuador, a town two hours northwest of Quito. Mindo Lago began as a project to recover native species of amphibians since they are considered to be nature´s thermometer. They are indicator species because their presence is a sign of ecological health due to their sensitivity to climate change and pollution. Twelve years ago, the land stewards built ponds, planted native water and land plants, and ensured that the lands was free from toxic chemicals and protected against human encroachment. This work has resulted in a haven for frogs, toads, howler monkeys, insects, birds and the plants and ponds that make them feel at home.. The response is so overwhelmingly beautiful and healthy, that people show up for nightly "Frog Concerts" whereby the frogs and toads will promptly begin their songs at 6:30pm. The songs vary depending on species, season, and weather, but what is obvious is that the resident amphibians are numerous. Since the project began 40 species of native amphibians call Mindo Lago home. At the Frog concert guests are served a small glass of wine, are given a introduction to the mission and work of the organization to restore and protect amphibians, and then go an a tour to see frogs, toads, spiders, birds, and biolumenesent micro bacteria.
The work and vision of Mindo Lago shows that nature can heal herself with proper stewardship, and native plants, water, and respectful toxic free care. Mindo Lago is a perfect example of design for restoration and the incredible aliveness and health that arrives as a result. To support the protect the caretakers of the land began to slowly create a hotel surronding the lake for people to learn, stay, and enjoy the truly revitalizing places in Ecuador. How do we know that? The diversity of creatures, especially the ecologically sensitive amphibians show up to stay and show up to sing. For more information check out: http://mindolago.com.ec/en/.
Creativity isn't really about being original, it is about unique combinations. As a permaculture student and lover of environmental art, the connection of bringing together restoration to the land base in an artful way occurred to me. I recognized the power of art as the educator and I felt that if there was land, water, or air that had thoughtfully been remediated than how could that important message be shared. The message to be shared is the one of human as giving back, not just taking, the message of human as steward dedicated to an ecological restorative practice with the land, water, and air. Art seemed to be the best way to share this ethos, that this experience and way of being in the world could be possible.
Imagine a watershed restoration project that might be close to a trail. Imagine that integrated with the erosion control earthworks is a design that is a recognizable feature that attracts the attention of those passing by. This is an opportunity for those paying attention to briefly read that there is restoration of this site in progress and that the design they see integrated will be habitat, help with erosion, and provide shade for the fish in the river. The multiple levels of functionality going on in this scenario includes, actual land based restoration techniques (the science), artful use of natural materials arranged for functionality and appreciation (the art), educational enrichment for the passersby (the message), and as a site containing art this location could receive more protection in the future. Additionally, the long-term development or the evolving nature of this artwork could attract long-term interest from the public, further increasing the protection of the land. As long as the humans stay off the healing land that is. :)
I recognize that the conditions would need to be right in terms of the land base needs and access by the public for this idea to have a big impact. I believe artists residencies could be established that connects scientists, environmental artists, and landowners to provide this experience. A few artists have been working in this way. This is one of the best examples I've come across recently where artist Guy Riefler uses iron from a toxic river to make pigments and art to sell to fund the river clean up. Mel Chin's Revival Field is another one. I'm sure there are more out there and I'm looking forward to facilitating projects or being an advocate for this concept throughout my life's work. Please reach out if you are interested too.
The restorative environmental art movement is a vision that is associated with a larger vision of a restorative economy. This is an economy based on stewardship, sharing, and better design rather than endless extraction. My hope is that beautiful seeds of awareness are planted that helps inspire humanity to evolve back to participating with the earth like a conscious adult.