Ruheforst Mushrooms – part 5

Today we have the last of Avalus’ photos from the natural burial forest, ending fittingly with a view of the forest itself. These burial forests are not only natural, but also safe and life sustaining. They’re one of nature’s best ways of recycling and there’s a growing demand for this type of burial option. One of the other big benefits of natural burial is that it is much more cost effective than the traditional care offered by the funeral industry of today.

My thanks to Avalus for his wonderful tour. I’ve enjoyed walking through the forest with him and seeing the myriad of fungi that grow here.

A “Hexen-Röhrling” (lit: witches-boletes), probably a Rubroboletus rubrosanguineus. ©Avalus, all rights reserved

[Read more…]

Funeral Care is Changing and Becoming Green

 

There’s a growing movement to wrestle death care away from the needlessly expensive hands of the Funeral Industry and to return to simpler methods of care and burial of the dead. The Order of the Good Death is an international organization committed to helping people find safe, green, affordable and natural options for burial. The Order is young, but growing quickly in part as a response to the startling statistics about our modern burial practices.

“American funerals are responsible each year for the felling of 30 million board feet of casket wood (some of which comes from tropical hardwoods), 90,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of concrete for burial vaults, and 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid. Even cremation is an environmental horror story, with the incineration process emitting many a noxious substance, including dioxin, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, and climate-changing carbon dioxide.” via Just How Bad is Traditional Burial?

One of the primary chemicals used in embalming fluid is formaldehyde, making all those gallons of embalming fluid highly toxic. Practitioners are required to wear full body and face protection and the chemicals aren’t always safely contained in our modern sealed caskets and concrete vaults. Flooding, earthquakes and even simply shifting ground can allow embalming fluids to leach into the soil and ground waters.

Cremation isn’t much better, releasing many dangerous pollutants into the air. There is, however, a new technology available called Aquamation which chemically breaks down a body using Alkaline Hydrolosis. The process is simple and transformative according to green funeral director Jeff Jorgenson

The AH process is that of heating a solution of water and sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or potassium hydroxide (KOH), which breaks down the complex molecules that make up the soft tissue of a body. In most human AH machines, this solution is pressurized and heated well above the boiling point of standard atmosphere. This high pressure/high temperature accelerates the breakdown of these complex molecules to a liquid. What remains are just the bones of the deceased, which is the same result you see with cremation. The process in human machines takes around three hours. Most animal AH machines however, this one included, do not use pressure for the process and thus, the temperatures used in the process are far lower, and that equals a longer processing time. This longer process means that you must perform multiple aquamations in one cycle to make it viable…

The water at the end of the cycle then gets discharged into the sanitary system like all other waste water. I would like to take a moment to explain that the liquid that is discharged is nutrient rich and safe enough to use in the garden for all of your vegetables. In cremation, all the tissues and liquid are vented up the chimney in the form of particulates and steam. In the both cremation and AH, what is returned to the family is simply bone and trace materials.

Aquamation is new technology and it may take some time before it becomes widely available and accepted. For those who want a more natural disposition of their dead there are green cemeteries popping up where bodies are simply buried in the soil with only a natural shroud or a biodegradable coffin. There are also now burial suits that turn bodies into clean compost. Decomposition is natural and safe. There is also a growing number of funeral directors who will assist you to be involved in the care of the body at your own level of comfort. That may be as simple as helping to wash and dress the dead or as complex as keeping the body at home and arranging for transport and burial. It is not a legal requirement that bodies be embalmed and it is perfectly safe to keep a body at home for several days with simply ice packs to slow down decomposition. 

A home funeral is what used to be called”a funeral,” since all funerals took place in the family home. Nowadays it means choosing to keep a body at home after death, as opposed to having the body immediately picked up by a funeral home. It is a safe and legal choice for a family to make!

Now, an important caveat is that each US state (for instance) has different laws – some states require you to hire a funeral director to file a death certificate or to transport a body.  This won’t effect the keeping the body at home part, but the funeral director will need to be involved in the process.

To find out what the home funeral requirements are where you live, you can find more detailed information here.

And if you’re interested in the requirements around embalming, burial, and cremation, read your consumer rights listed by state.

I encourage you to visit the Order of The Good Death. The site is full of resources and interesting articles about this growing trend in after death care. They also have information to help you begin conversations about planning for death and advanced directives. Death is a natural and inevitable part of life. There’s no need to fear talking about it.

I’d also like to thank Avalus for prompting me to write about this. His photographs of mushrooms in a natural burial cemetery peaked my curiosity. We’ll be sharing Avalus’ mushroom photos daily over the course of this week and I encourage you to check them out, too.

 

 

 

Ruheforst Mushrooms

From Avalus, information about a growing trend and a warning about climate change.

Maybe a bit macabre, so a foreword.

 Graveyards, Mushrooms and climate change, perhaps.

 In Germany there is a growing trend to be buried in a “Ruheforst”, (resting or still forest) instead of a usual graveyard. There your cremated remains get buried in a bio-degradable urn next to a tree of your choosing. There are no graves, no large markerstones, just an open, tended-to forest with many small paths and plaques on some trees. Some persons I know rest in such a place in the palatinate forest near the town Bad Dürkheim, so our family visits them every so often. Now to the bit macabre bit: It’s also a prime mushroom hunting place with usually plenty of different bolete species and other edibles. One of my grandmothers is sure, the ‘shrooms are nourished by the dead and refuses to eat any. I think they are so plentiful because by opening the forest, the trees left standing are getting more light and nutrients and so can give more of these nutrients to their mushroom-symbionts.

This year however, there were hardly any mushrooms of any kind there. The ground was very dry and most of the threes had small leaves. Instead, signs warning of forest fires were a common sight.

I did not pick up any of the edible ‘shrooms I found, but only took photos.

I have no idea, but I admired its roundness. ©Avalus, all rights reserved

[Read more…]

Jack’s Walk

Last year we didn’t really have too much of an autumn show of colour. Instead, most trees just went from green to brown to leafless. This year, though, autumn is glorious and all the trees are wearing their best, bright party dresses. Jack and I invite you to join us as we stroll around our neighbourhood and look at all the pretty October colour.

Just starting to colour up

[Read more…]

Chinese Fabric Art

Opus has sent us a special treat… a few pictures taken while he was visiting China. The photos are full of energy and bright, bold colour and I can’t help but think that it must have been very special to see this art with people who understand its true value. Thanks so much for sharing, Opus.

 Pictures from Lijiang in southern China.  I visited with a couple of fabric artists who wanted to see the work done by local women. We were not disappointed!  The woman with the elaborately embroidered headwear is Naxi, best I can remember.  Lijiang is on an ancient trade route, the Tea-Horse road, which was used to trade tea from southern China for Tibetan horses.

©Opus, all rights reserved

©Opus, all rights reserved

©Opus, all rights reserved

Affinity is growing

It is with great delight that I announce that rq is joining the blogging team here at Affinity. Many of you are familiar with rq from the comments section of the blog where she has been contributing for many years. She is now ready to step up and do some blogging herself and we couldn’t be happier. She brings a lot to our team and we can expect posts on an interesting mix of subjects ranging from Baltic culture to the arts. Perhaps she’ll even share a peek into the random and interesting things that cross her path. For now there will be no fixed schedule for rq’s posts. Instead, they will come as happy little surprises that surface amidst our already mixed bag.

So now we are four. Four bloggers in four different countries, all with different interests and different points of view, but all wanting to share our worlds with you. We’re also a curious bunch and we want this blog to be a vibrant international community where other people share their worlds with us. That’s one of the best parts of Affinity. It has many voices and you just never know what will pop up. We also hope that one of those voices will be yours. We still invite you to share your favourite recipes, photos, arts and crafts with us. You don’t have to be a great photographer or a master artist to contribute. I’m certainly neither of those things.

I would also like to take a minute to acknowledge the founder of Affinity, Caine. This blog was her vision and she always welcomed contributions from her readers. Her voice was always encouraging and it is because of her support that I even dared to try blogging. Caine expressed a desire for rq to become part of this blog and I know that she would be thrilled by the news.

Affinity just became more interesting. I hope you’ll all help me welcome rq.

Slavic Saturday

OK, I’ll bite. Last week Rob Grigjanis mentioned Antonín Dvořák and he indeed is one of Czech composers whose work is dear to my heart. I particularly like his Slavonic Dances, Opus 46. I was looking for a video that I like and unfortunately the only one that I do cannot be embedded, so you would have to head over to Czech TV Website. I hope it works for out-of state too. Other recordings that I have found on YouTube I did not like – right at the first dance “Furiant” seemed either too fast or too bland.

That I make such judgement is slightly ironic and possibly unfair to the musicians. I do not dance at all and I hate it, particularly polka. Surely everyone knows polka, although not everyone knows that it is originally Czech dance. My experience with it is however rather unpleasant – I was always a bad dancer, but it was seen as somewhat required to take dance lessons in highschool, so I did, being awkward and clumsy all the time despite my best effort. And polka was for me the last straw in this string of tortures – at the end of the lesson my disgruntled dance partner has lifted her skirt and has shown me her feet that were kicked and stomped bloody. That put a final crimp in my (non-existent as it was) desire to dance that dance ever again, since I try not to hurt people on principle.

It is not that I do not have a sense of rhythm, but everyone tells me polka has two and a half step (hence the name půlka(half)-polka), however I simply hear three steps and that daft little half-skip just tangles both my brain and my feet. Not that other dances are much better with their inane jumping and turning and all that nonsense. I do not see the point of dancing, really.

But the music can be beautiful and can move me to tap my feet or nod my head a little. That much I admit.

Wackaloon

Liz Crokin, right wing “journalist” has recently lost the tips of two fingers in a surfing accident and is blaming Hilary Clinton as the cause.

While she realizes that it was probably “just a freak accident,” that didn’t stop her from also asserting that it may have been the result of a curse that had been placed on her by Hillary Clinton or artist Marina Abramović or some other “witch” that is targeting her due to her efforts to expose the secret satanic cannibalistic pedophile cult that supposedly runs the world.

Is it just me, or do other people think that the right wing of America have lost their minds. I can almost get past their belief in their God (almost, but not really), but what is up with the belief in witches and spells and curses. Do they really think we live in Harry Potter World full of magic, and if so why isn’t their all-powerful, all-seeing God doing something about it? It seems to me that it just highlights the impotence of their sky God. It all seems so totally illogical and totally ridiculous. The full story is at Right Wing Watch, if you can stomach it. Just a word of warning, if you click on the links inside the story be prepared for even more ridiculous right wing thinking.

 

Voracious Lapse

Kreator has sent us another Roman Cura mural, this one titled Voracious Lapse. I love this artist’s work. He has such an eye for the dangerous undercurrents in society and an unflinching ability to convey fear and loathing in bright happy colours and cartoonish shapes. Kreator tells us:

A small one. Located in the wall of the Luis Yllana canteen from the National University of Patagonia San Juan Bosco.

Thanks for sharing Kreator.

Voracious Lapse by Roman Cura (left), ©Kreator, all rights reserved

Voracious Lapse by Roman Cura (right), ©Kreator, all rights reserved

Barcelona: the City 4: Streets

Wedged in between the mountains and the sea, Barcelona’s streets tend to be narrow and dark, and beautiful.

But it’s also a place where you can see the contrast between rich and poor, with people sleeping rough, begging for change and trying to make ends meet by selling knickknacks. When you come to the harbour you will have the multi-million dollar yachts next to poor immigrants selling cheap sunglases.

I will say one thing in favour of Barcelona and that is that they don’t seem to actively work against the homeless population. There was a spot at Catalunya where our bus arrived and left where a homeless guy had his place, with a small foam mattress and a few belongings. He usually wasn’t there when we arrived, but at least nobody destroyed his things and the police didn’t remove them.

My kids were wondering about the “junk”, not knowing that this was somebody’s home, and when I explained it to them they emptied their pockets and put all their change on the mattress. I was never prouder of them than in that moment.

Narrow street with decorated balconies

Narrow street just off the Rambla. ©Giliell, all rights reserved

Small balcony with many potted plants

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Barcelona: The City 2: La Plaza Catalunya

The centre of Barcelona is the Plaza Catalunya. Lined on one side by the traditional Corte Inglés shopping centre and start of the Rambla, the main boulevard, there’s a snowball’s chance in hell you’ll miss it. Most tourist buses start and stop there (our shuttle bus from the camp site dropped us off there and picked us up, and so did most others), the hop on- hop off buses stop there, the metro lines do, the regional train station is under it.

Above it are the pigeons.

Water fountain by night, brightly lit.

The fountain by night.
©Giliell, all rights reserved

 

Water fountain in daylight.

The fountain by day.
©Giliell, all rights reserved

Pigeon bathing in a water fountain.

Did I say fountain? What I meant was “pigeon bath”.
©Giliell, all rights reserved

Pigeons in a tree.

How many pigeons can you count?
©Giliell, all rights reserved