The Queerness Of Composting

I am one of those insane people who love composting. I don’t have a yard, no, and I’m sure I’m doing it wrong by dumping my food and paper byproducts into my neighbor’s green and yard waste containers but – Hey. – it’s all I can do in my attempt to save the world by reducing, reusing, and recycling in my home.

There’s something so queer about composting too, creating something out of waste or seeing the beauty in that which is discarded by a person unable to reproduce based on sexual attraction. No, I do not get to see my trash babies evolve back to dirt but I feel a great sense of pride in feeling like I’m both contributing to an ongoing circle of life while constantly tracking and honoring what we eat as something another had to plant and raise and harvest, the manifestation of so many resources (from water to money) that make the otherwise alien accessible.

I know this is not a singular thought and a recent New Yorker story on how composting is magic resonated this feeling. The story was written by nature and gardening writer Charlotte Mendelson who, in a handful of paragraphs, produced something so wonderfully captivating regarding what composting is like. In many ways, it captured why composting is so queer.

For example: this passage.

But picture producing something from nothing, or, better still, from refuse: the slimy salad, worn-out jeans, and crumpled newspaper that even the most ardent upcycler must set aside. Imagine if, with a minimum of effort, one could obtain the most delicious plant food and, even better, nauseating amounts of self-satisfaction, merely by shoving vegetable remnants into a dark place, lightly watering them, and waiting. Within a few months, they will have magically combined to form clots of chocolaty, sweet-smelling, wildly nutritious soil. I am no fan of mold, yet this black gold is a joy to handle; I distribute it among my pots like a loving mother spooning vitamins into her young. It’s like cooking, but smugger. Trust me. If I have room for a single plastic compost bin, so do you.

“Something from nothing” is perhaps the best explanation of this queer feeling of composting, that we humans who are the childless and the forgers of new paths would find peace in a place that is all about relishing filth. How lovely!

Mendelson notes how addicting the act can be (It really is.) before speaking to the next evolution of your composting: worms. “They’re warm, well fed, sexually active,” she writes. “What more could anyone want?” That, too, is an inherently queer observation, that these worms are in their own ways LGBT icons who fester in the dark, happy and nourished, fucking each other’s brains out to make a better world for everyone else.

It’s a beautiful thing. That might not be why I started composting but is certainly why I will continue. Perhaps this will be what inspires you to take up this natural recycling process? Our planet would appreciate it if you did.

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