Content here represents the voice of SIGNATURE SUNSETS, an informational initiative designed to broaden and brighten horizons in the funerary domain.

The material is an outgrowth of a pre-planning reference book, Pondering Leaves: Composing and Conveying Your Life Story's Epilogue, written by the author of this blog.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Journey Journal... Newfield, New York

A DECIMAL FESTIVAL... From Square One To Compound Interest

On a sun-drenched and auspicious September day, conviviality was particularly apparent at the Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve.  Human spirits were flourishing here amid pastures of bodily extinction.  Living souls were fully engaged in activities, fueled by the horsepower of concerted efforts.  Evidence of collegial harmony uniting a bevy of workers and participants prevailed.  One of the original founders of the cemetery was first spotted in an orange safety vest, helping a cohort direct newcomers to parking spaces.  

A celebration was underway to mark the tenth anniversary of the burial property’s founding.  The occasion brought together the visionaries who had launched this ecological initiative along with supporters and community folks interesting in learning more about a green, yet golden, opportunity.  

A tent served as central headquarters for a program of activities.  

Under its canopy were a microphone delineating a presentation corner, tables bearing light refreshments, and a beverage bar where an attendant served wine, beer, cider, and soda. 
Guests could park themselves either on folding chairs or atop ancillary bales of hay.   

Amid platters of fruits, veggies, cheese, and cupcakes, flickering candles lent ambience to the already naturally tranquil milieu. 

An a cappella group launched the program and set the tempo for a sequence of performances that followed, which included juggling, magic, and music. 

Key players in the cemetery’s development delivered information, updates, and grateful acknowledgment of particular contributors.  

People learned that two hundred and forty bodies have been buried there, with about one thousand more plots having been purchased and reserved for occupancy.  Thirty additional acres of land had recently been acquired, thereby enlarging the parcel of one hundred acres.  Use of a portion of the new territory for a pet cemetery is under consideration.  

Donations are solicited for projects and expenses of all sorts.

There are many opportunities for volunteer engagement, either as a one-time contribution or on a regular basis.  Assisting with burial ceremonies or greeting mourners are among the possibilities, in addition to serving as a representative at events such as tours and fundraisers.  

Rolling up one’s sleeves to tackle physical tasks is another option.  An old farmhouse alongside the access road has been pegged as a potential facility where visitors would be able to gather.  But for that to happen, it must be spruced up and adapted for that purpose.  Cleaning efforts could also be undertaken in the small building that serves as office headquarters.  Help with maintaining buildings and grounds might entail painting, gardening, or mowing.  And a parking lot is sorely needed, particularly at certain times of the year when navigating over grassland becomes a weather-induced challenge.  

Manpower is sought also to remove invasive species from the newly procured thirty-acre property.  Such an initiative is an ongoing mission throughout the entire cemetery terrain.  Non-native Norway spruce trees have been cut down in one of the meadows, consonant with a recommendation by an ecological advisory committee.  An annual December event, dubbed “Greenery Day,” draws a substantial number of people.  Last year two hundred individuals were on hand to topple the overgrown, non-native trees.  Folks who participate in this venture take home the tree tops to display as Charlie Brown Christmas trees.    

So Greensprings continues to be a work in progress… progress that has been remarkable during the past ten years, energized by the commitment of core leaders as well as the volunteers who have provided impressive donations of time, effort, and monetary support.   

As the program ebbed, in a bow to Buddhist tradition for wishing people well, a leader sang phrases as part of a “Loving Kindness Meditation,” invoking communal responses and contemplation of sentient words:  “May I be a source of healing, may I bring peace, may my heart be open, may I be awakened to my true nature, may you be a source of true healing, be at peace, may all beings awaken to the light of true nature…”  

Before a rendition of the well-known song, “Simple Gifts,” was sung, the burial coordinator referenced the emotional ramifications of burials at Greensprings.  Having participated in many interments there while believing that “nature is nurturing,” she has observed that being in a beautiful place helps to absorb mourners’ sadness. 

But Greensprings is for everyone, not just the mourners and the bodies of their deceased loved ones.  All seekers of outdoor resuscitation are welcome to connect with the land there by taking walks and using the grounds. 

Following the agenda of activities, guests were offered an opportunity to choose from a menu of “field trip” opportunities.  An ornithologist would lead a group through the territory to scout for bird sightings and sounds, where migratory bobolinks thrive along with meadowlarks, Henslow’s sparrows, northern harriers, and other winged flutterers.  The wife of one of the founders, Carl Leopold (whose body was buried on the grounds), is now a trustee who would give folks an overview of the cemetery’s plants.  The most colorful option entailed accompanying a gourde puppet bedecked in autumnal orange through the meadows to distribute milkweed seeds for propagation of butterfly habitats.

Dauntless guests may have opted to be led to the old, uninhabited farmhouse where the leader offered to descend into the basement for a peek at its potential.  But a number of people chose what was perhaps a less formidable and more illuminating option: an abbreviated tour of the grounds with visits to a few gravesites.  

The first stop was for a look at demonstration arenas.  Two rock-delineated gardens contained examples of native plants that families can choose to plant over graves; one has plants and the other has a small assortment of grasses.  

Nearby, the ground is dotted with examples of flat stones that would be appropriate grave markers.  

Burrowed within adjacent territory is the grave warmer (fueled by propane) that can be used if necessary to thaw the ground prior to a winter burial.  

Upon observing gravesites, individuals were given answers to their inquiries.

Plot dimensions are fifteen feet square, assuring low-density layouts and ease of maneuvering around graves with a backhoe. 

For the most part, bodies are not embalmed unless there is an extenuating circumstance.  One such situation relates to transport of a body from a state where embalming is required by law for transport to a different state.  It was noted, though, that bodies have been transferred to Greensprings by plane from California, Texas, and Georgia, but were not embalmed.

In accordance with a New York state regulation, a funeral director must certify that a body has been brought to the site of disposition.  One time a family transported their loved one’s body in a truck and the funeral director came in his own car.  

Currently, the cost for a plot to accommodate a body is $1,000., with an additional $1,000. fee for opening and closing the grave.  Small plots (290” X 90”)  can be purchased for burial of cremated remains, located in a small section of the cemetery; the cost is $350. for the space and an additional $350. to cover the fee for the burial process.    

Greensprings is characterized by heterogeneity of plot offerings.  That is, except for a field designated for Jewish burials where only Jewish people can be interred (according to the same natural principles that define green burials), there are no sections specifically for ethnic, religious, or fraternal groups.  

Across the road from the Jewish area, an expansive field labeled, “Bobolink Meadow” is where winter burials can be accommodated.  

Though New York City cemeteries are bursting at the seams, at this cemetery in the western realm of the state there's plenty of room to grow.  It was estimated that there is at least sixty percent availability of plots on land that has been surveyed, with lots of additional space in territory where surveys have not yet been conducted.    

There was palpable excitement among the worker bees who had organized this afternoon affair.  It had been a success, judged by the responses and effusive affect of those who had attended the proceedings.  As a performer steered his car toward the road, he opened the window and called out to one of the organizers, acknowledging that he had enjoyed himself and he’d like to be invited back sometime.

Yes, it’s possible to enjoy oneself in a cemetery!  At this particular one, in contrast to visiting conventional burial grounds, it doesn’t entail reinforcing familiarity through observation of redundant hallmarks.  There are no headstones bearing entertaining epitaphs or paved walkways for daily strolls.  Here, unblemished by manifestations of mankind as a different type of invasive species, there’s a chance for immersion in an atmosphere that’s essentially free of human intervention.  Here, it’s possible to enjoy sensorial absorption, enabling one to get in touch with a primordial essence of beginnings and endings – the nature of natural cycles.  

Here, the presence of both the living and the dead represents a celebration of this elysian estate and all that is over, under, and around it.  On this re-appropriated parcel of land, one can’t help but feel appreciation for the impassioned spirits of those who seek to sustain nature’s bounty.   

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