CAUTION! Gallows humor ahead. Also, puns.
Dirt ain’t cheap. Say you want to construct your own hillock, or fill in a swimming pool (would that you could give that pool to me), or the base for some other Grand Scale Project. Nothing fancy required. No leaf mold, kelp, fish emulsion, manure or compost—just a small mountain of soil for an underlayer. That could get very costly.
Well. Just before the edict came down to Stay at Home, Baby and her baby—that would be my grandbaby, a delightful little chap now three months and change—were tootling around Raleigh, North Carolina, buying bags of soil to fill in her new garden border, which consists mainly of a thin layer of soil over an impenetrable mass of building rubble, courtesy of the contractor.
Having spent however much, they were on their way home when a sign materialized near the gates of a cemetery, Montlawn Memorial Park, that brought her to a screeching halt. “Free Fill Dirt,” the sign said.
Being a child raised on the oeuvre of Roald Dahl and having learned her ABCs from Edward Gorey (“A is for Alice who fell down the stairs”)*, she instantly recognized the Green Acre column possibilities and called her mummy. That would be me.
Montlawn, an 80-acre plot founded in 1932, advertises “a serene lake, magnificent mausoleums and the extraordinary Whispering Waters Cremation Garden,” they say. This is “complemented by lush landscaping and beautiful water features.” Certainly many fine folks remain here.
Do they really offer free soil as well? “Sure,” a pleasant-voiced woman named Beth told me. “If you take the first entrance and turn right to the maintenance area, there’s a huge pile of dirt.”
Apparently, excess soil is a byproduct of burials.
Do all cemeteries offer it? “I would think so,” Beth mused. “But I don’t go around checking.”
I had no luck digging up dirt, free or otherwise, at cemeteries in Washington DC; most of them are closed because of the plague, no longer have vacancies or are working with only a skeleton crew. Only a lonely woman at Rock Creek Cemetery could be raised in time for deadline, and her answer was No.
This is too bad. There are many famous and fascinating folks buried around this town. Fancy dirt from, say, Congressional Cemetery on Capitol Hill? Among the remains are President John Quincy Adams, J. Edgar Hoover and Choctaw Chief Pushmataha. Residents of Rock Creek Cemetery include Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Upton Sinclair and Gore Vidal. Then there’s the heroic cast at Arlington Cemetery.
Talk about lending any garden an air of gravitas—and bragging rights.
If you’re into Voodoo (and if you’re not, this may be a fine time to take it up), cemetery soil has many other uses, benign and not.
Moodymoons.com, an interfaith community dedicated to celebrating your “inner goddess,” suggests sprinkling graveyard dirt in your home garden to honor the cycle of life and encourage the dead to “come back” in the form of your crop. Lovely for people who believe in reincarnation.
My mother, my tomato.
And for home protection, which we could all use a lot of right now: “Walk the outdoor perimeter of your home and sprinkle a little graveyard dirt on all the corners to protect it from dark entities, unwanted spirits and negative energy.”
An ounce of graveyard dirt is available on Amazon for $5.61 with free shipping for Prime members. “This iconic graveyard dirt,” says the product description, “is a powerful symbolic tool, used to form a link with ancestors and spirits of the dead for spirits of protection, curses, and compelling love spells.”
“Love this product!” said one of the 24 reviewers who awarded it 4 stars. “It definitely definitely works and I would buy again.” She’d better hustle, there are only 17 bags left in stock.
Excuse me please while I call Baby and tell her to grab her shovel and a few thousand baggies. This could be my “finding a Vermeer at a yard sale” moment.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” knows great dirt when she hears about it.
- From The Gashlycrumb Tinies: A Very Gorey Alphabet Book, $10.80 at barnesandnoble.com.