Death and gardening

Theun Karelse

The individual disintegrating into the many.

Reefs, tundras, forests, rivers, swamps – with giant bodies of a million legs, with guts, leaves, tendrils, beaks and tentacles – are crossing the threshold where teeming life disintegrates into uncanny territories of radical decay. The creeping, pinching collapse of ecosystems spreads like a reverse Midas touch: extractive fingers feel through crevices, into streams and arteries. Pouring down darkly in tainted rain, seeping deep into greenery, soil, and flesh. Overflow, swallowing feet and fins and eyes and necks. Societies that had long forgotten or ignored death now fall to its universal contagion.

Planting dead trees in the FoAM Amsterdam outdoor studio @MidWest

A gardener works both with the living and the dead or decomposing. In my own neighborhood, chopped down tree trunks are left out with the rubbish. I have started collecting and replanting them in my garden forming a small zombie forest. Inspired by experiments with "structural complexity enhancement" in Vermont's Jericho Research Forest, these massive wooden heralds skip the slow accumulation of biomass and decay in old growth forests.

The tiny backyard forest is maturing rapidly beyond its chronological age. Beetles and fungi, rodents and amphibians now reside there after only three years. Creatures who, in their turn, let go of life. Dead rats, perished pigeons, and slain frogs are reintroducing carcass ecology to this fledgling garden. On these cadavers, a colorful cast enters the stage. The individual disintegrating into the many. Luminous green flies and dark-armored black beetles scuttle through rotting rat fur. Gentle butterflies touch down to lick the slippery skin of a bursting frog cadaver. Hornets and tireless ants tuck their mandibles into a dead sparrow, like octopi circling a fallen whale on the abyssal plain.

Whale Fall at Davidson Seamount

â€Ļ forgotten to any man, to any time, forgotten to any god or devil. Forgotten even to the sea, for any stuff for part of Winslow, even any scantling of your soul is Winslow no more, but now itself the sea

The Lighthouse (2019) Robert and Max Eggers.


Conscious Closure