Reflections on a Green Burial Nature Preserve
In early October, the Knox Soil and Water Conservation District hosted its annual Heart of Ohio Tour that highlights the more unique aspects of Knox County, with a particular focus on agriculture. This year, the tour included the Kokosing Nature Preserve (KNP), a branch of the Philander Chase Conservancy that operates not only as a nature preserve, but also a green burial site. This combination of conservation and green burial is unique, and extant at only two other places in Ohio. As a green burial site, interments have minimal environmental impact and use eco-friendly caskets, shrouds and urns. Graves are marked with flat, natural stones instead of the polished headstones used in many cemeteries.
When I walk around KNP I find existential reflection a matter of inevitability, manifesting in various ways. It is at times shocking to walk through a burial site without the visual acknowledgment it is a burial site. We are accustomed to the aesthetic recognition of the dead, a need to imprint ourselves permanently onto this earth. Yet the more time one spends in a green burial site, the more natural and logical its purpose becomes. The site represents the holistic relationship between life, death, and nature. Natural burial cultivates the natural flora prevalent throughout the preserve. In this way, death promotes nature by nourishing its life. Yet the Preserve is most beautiful because its essence is relative to the beholder.
Elise Murray, a student at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, visited during the tour. Elise spent time taking pictures of the natural landscape. Later she pulled out an easel, and took to painting the natural landscape of the preserve. When I asked her why she enjoyed painting nature she responded, “It allows me to explore my relationship with the world in a more authentic way.” This fitting response encapsulates the essence of the Preserve — it is whatever you make it to be. Whether appreciation for KNP manifests in a painting, in burial, or in a walking route, it has succeeded in promoting the importance of reflecting on nature.