It isn’t every week that any writer gets a cover story, especially for a print mag. So I’m thrilled to share that a piece I co-wrote is on the current cover of YES! Magazine. (If you aren’t familiar with YES!, it’s a progressive solutions-journalism quarterly—I tend to spot it in the checkout lines of grocery co-ops.)
The cover topic: green burial. The quick & (literally) dirty on this phrase: Essentially, green burial is a return to the way Americans buried bodies before the Civil War (and humans have since time immemorial): straight into the ground. There’s no satin-lined casket or concrete vault, just a biodegradable pine box or cloth shroud. The idea is to return ourselves to the earth, naturally and quickly.
My co-author, fellow Hudson Valley journalist Phillip Pantuso, and I learned plenty of surprising facts in the course of reporting. Like that even though U.S. cremation rates have been rising, getting down to ashes isn’t as eco-friendly as many assume.
Visiting a green burial ground often feels less like going to a cemetery than taking a stroll in the woods. Green-burial expert Suzanne Kelly, based not far from us in Rhinebeck, took us through the natural burial ground she helped establish. Cherry and beech trees stretched tall, ferns helped cover the ground, and the scent of phlox, a purple wildflower, floated in the air. When I looked at the conventional cemetery section afterward, it looked as man-made as a golf course, as surprising as a razor strip across a thick head of hair.
Of course, when in grief—the most intensely personal of times—mourners should do what feels right for them and their loved one. But as I write more and more about sustainability, I’m honored to share green burial as an option people might not’ve been aware of.
On this story we had the pleasure of working with Meredith Heuer, a world-class photographer based right here in my town of Beacon. Above all, I was privileged to share the experience of the amazing Stiles Najac. She laid her partner to rest in a green burial ground after he died by suicide last year, and bravely put her story into the world to lessen the societal stigma. She and her baby son, Zana, are absolute beams of light, and along with the inviting cover the YES! team designed, left me feeling hopeful. I hope you’ll check the story out.