Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Modern Art of Composting

It seems that now everyone not only knows about compost, they are all doing it, too. In homes, schools, restaurants they are dumping decomposable leftovers into buckets and turning them into nutrients for the earth. But I'm not sure anyone would call it an art form.
The idea began when sister's friend, Mark B. came over our house to rehearse for the Falmouth High play they were both "starring" in. Mark was a jokester and made me, the younger sister laugh. More importantly, he let me in on the joke, which I thought was a pretty big deal at the time- still do. I remember him coming home with Karyn after school, into our kitchen through the back door, both of them starving and looking for something to eat before they went upstairs to practice their lines. Mark hungrily looked into the big silver mixing bowl that sat on the corner of the counter top. He may have even taken a big whiff before he realized...What was it, trash? He looked quizzically at me and Karyn.
"It's compost!" I shrieked and fell into a fit of giggles as only a 13 year old girl can do.
"Compost?" Mark said. Back in the early 1980's, it wasn't very popular to throw your scraps in a bucket to make mulch instead of throwing them along with everything else into the landfill. What a weird thing to do!
Val came in and calmly explained why banana peels, egg shells, and used tea bags were taking up space on our kitchen counter. I'm sure she explained the benefits of the seemingly insane process while we kids made fun. As always,she offered everyone a delicious homemade snack then ferried me away so that my older sister could have some privacy with her friend.
Mark declared the pile of discarded food scraps, "Modern Art" and insisted on inspecting the contents of our compost bowl every time he entered the house. It became our running joke. That somehow what was trash could actually end up in a high end gallery where someone might pay large sums of money to own this work was very funny to us. We thought this idea to be very "punk rock". After all, it was the era of Blondie, the Clash and the Sex Pistols, all anti establishment heroes. Who knows where Johnny Rotten really got his name?
On Sunday mornings, when my father comes over for breakfast, he takes my overflowing hot pink compost pail and dumps the coffee grounds, and vegetable ends into our larger receptacle outside. As he wipes out the pail and lines it with newspaper (his own technique) to be filled again, he asks, "What did Karyn's friend, Mark call the compost?"
I always laugh when I'm reminded and say, "Oh yeah, He called it Modern Art!"