Column: Digging into cemeteries, cinema and human compost

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

  • Apr. 26, 2019 11:40 a.m.

Though maybe not a tourist attraction, Mount Ida Cemetery is a fascinating Salmon Arm landmark – one I’m surprised hasn’t been discovered by Hollywood North.

Over spring break, while walking past the Vancouver street I grew up on, nostalgia was quickly replaced by fascination as a film crew had taken over a home near the end of the block (word was it may have been for the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina). Most of the crews’ trucks and trailers were parked up the street, adjacent to Mountain View Cemetery – a location that is used a lot by TV and movie productions.

Last year, while taking photos for the paper, I tagged along with the annual Cemetery Tour at Mount Ida, hosted by RJ Haney Heritage Village and Museum curator/archivist Deborah Chapman. The tour is great – rich with interesting, colourful and tragic local history. While reverently exploring some of the gravesites outside the parameters of the tour, one of the participants and I began chatting about the hillside cemetery and how we thought it ideally suited to cinema.

The mix of impressive aged headstones, the hills and trees and assorted vegetation – Mount Ida is one of the most, well, beautiful cemeteries I’ve ever seen. Not that I want to take up residence there anytime soon

This brings me to two words I recently heard used together, a morbid combination I’ve yet to get my head around: human composting.

It turns out Washington, the state, is set to approve a burial process called “natural organic reduction.” Also called human composting, it’s basically allowing human bodies, sans embalming fluid, to be reduced to soil. It’s said to be a sustainable, environmentally friendly process that produces a cubic yard (0.76 cubic meters) of soil per body — enough to fill two large wheelbarrows.

Read more: Back to Earth: Washington State set to allow ‘human composting’

Read more: Graveside view of Salmon Arm history

Read more: Who Killed Sam Kee?

Talk about the circle of life.

I don’t know if I’d want to eat, say, potatoes grown from the detritus that was once me. I know I’d certainly want to rinse myself off the potatoes first – not that I wouldn’t do the same for any dirt on my vegetables.

Yeah, my gut really isn’t appreciating this line of thought. Academically though, I’m not entirely opposed to the idea of human composting. We had to build a new cemetery because we’re running out of room at Mount Ida. That’s one thing human composting could help with. Also, as beautiful as Mount Ida is, there’s also beauty in knowing that even after death, you’ve contributed to the growth of new life.


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