One of my favorite activities in my old compost operation was the early morning compost aeration on frosty winter mornings. My six-yard loader bucket would dig deep into a steaming hot pile and lift the scoop high, billowing steam against the morning sky resembling cupped hands reaching upward with a precious sacrifice to the heavens above. The bucket would then be slowly tilted forward dumping a dry stream of hot compost to hit the ground with a silent explosion of steam engulfing me in a dense cloud of rich, warm comforting fog – a little slice of heaven in a big pile of shit.
This experience always produced a sense of elation beyond any logical explanation. I have since discovered that many microbes in the compost process produce enzymes that stimulate the release of serotonins. That might help explain why this was such a euphoric and spiritual experience.
Come to think of it, even when poor decisions, possibly related to steamy concoctions, caused me to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars and left us nearly destitute, I could still never work my way around to feeling bad about it. I must be permanently pegged out somewhere off the charts of the serotonin scale. Soil microbes apparently produce similar enzymes which also stimulate the release of serotonins. Some child psychiatrists hypothesize that this might have to do with the common habit of toddlers eating dirt. At any rate, compost vapors will be the foundation of our spa’s emotional well-being programs.
But this isn’t all the compost microbes have to offer. An ancient Japanese practice of being buried up to the neck in hot compost has enjoyed a recent rebirth. In addition to the humid heat helping to sweat out and cleanse skin pores, it is believed that the microbial activity helps to heal and rejuvenate skin. There have been countless tales and legends of healing powers of various soils and swamp mucks. These mostly deal with cases of extensive burns being miraculously healed by lengthy submersion or burial of the body up to the neck.
There’s also a practice in some Third World countries utilizing a cow dung poultice on wounds to prevent scar tissue. According to the stories of a few Peruvian sheepherders I lived with during a long hard winter north of Maybell, Colo., this was apparently a common practice amongst Peruvian banditos who didn’t wish to bear the scars of a knife fight. Following this logic, our spa clientele will lavish for hours buried to the neck in steaming hot manure piles.
Any good compost operation will also have a vermicompost program to produce high grade worm castings (more poop — a pattern?). Charles Darwin was probably the first to suggest that all soil on earth was created by the digestive tracts of earthworms. This turns out to be almost, but not quite entirely true. Charles also used to shout at earthworms, trying to elicit a response. That might best be fodder for a different narrative, but since I can’t imagine what that narrative might be, I guess I’ll leave it here in this one. While not included in his notes, I’d wager the worms’ response came in the form of more castings.
We’ve all heard, and many of us have tested, the theory that worms can be cut in half and regenerate themselves. This is true if performed with surgical precision. Worms do have incredible regenerative capabilities and some worms may be thousands of years old. It is theorized that worms might live indefinitely if not squashed on sidewalks or impaled by fish hooks. It is also hypothesized that this regenerative capacity is provided by their mucilaginous slime coating. Worm slime might be the long sought and elusive ‘Fountain of Youth.’ There could be huge potential in worm slime cosmetics.
The obvious problem with worm slime is the challenge of removing it from the worm to package and market it. Maybe a colander type container with little holes designed to scrape slime off as worms pass through? My thought is to leave the slime intact and use the worms themselves as the applicators. After being buried to the neck in hot manure, our spa clients will have their faces buried in a squirming worm-pack through which a snorkel system would deliver rich, hot steam from the center of the pile.
While at first blush it may seem an insurmountable challenge to convince folks to spend big bucks to be buried in shit and have their faces packed with worms, there are many psychological factors favoring its inevitable popularity. It may stem largely from Catholicism or religion in general, but our society has a very basic and overwhelming belief that nothing good comes without suffering – we must pay for our sins. “No pain, no gain,” “ya wanna play, ya gotta pay,” there are countless sayings reinforcing this concept.
The many severe warnings on most pharmaceutical products help to assure customers that by risking life and limb, they are taking enough chances to be confident in the product’s efficacy. Obviously, the sacrifices required by our spa would pay huge dividends.
Another factor favoring the success of our outrageous spa is the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance, the process by which the brain tries to reconcile and rationalize the often-unreasonable actions of the body. While I’m confident in the science behind the various practices proposed by this spa and have every confidence in its success, the bottom line is that none of it would really have to work.
Having been through the turd burial, the facial worm pack and the compost steam breathing exercises, a client would either need to admit to themselves that they paid Aspen prices to subject themselves to that sort of abuse for no good reason (not likely) or decide it was the best thing they’ve ever done for themselves. It would no doubt be all the latest chatter in health and beauty.
The best thing about this proposed spa is that it would help promote composting and vermicomposting, two of the most important keystones of sustainability without which a large-scale departure from Monsanto-driven chemical agribusiness is not even remotely possible. So, while promoting your own health and well-being, you would also be contributing to the health and well-being of our environment. This spa would not only make you feel better but, by helping the earth, would also give you something to feel better about.
While we’re on the topic of healthy living through microbes, tune in next month for my column titled “Filthy and Healthy” – the comparison of a sterile existence to the cultivation of your body’s own custom microcosm. Until then, don’t touch anything I wouldn’t touch. And keep in mind that, especially concerning caca, “’tis better to give than to receive.”
Dropping out of high school to pursue the life of a cowboy in Texas, Jim Duke eventually earned a BS in Zoology and MS on Mountain Goat Habitat in Alaska. His taste for the wild has taken him to the upper Amazon, Patagonia, Madagascar and mountain biking across Tibet. Largely unemployable, he works on an “as tolerated” basis, mostly dealing with equines and compost.