At a monastery in Virginia, death is like a cool spring: the Cool Spring Natural Cemetery at Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville.
Piedmont Pine Coffins and its cottage industrial home, Melleray Farmstead, proclaim to take inspiration, in part, from monks and monasteries. And it’s true! The retreats and visits I’ve made during the course of my life at places like Mount Melleray Abbey in Ireland, Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina, and Holy Cross Abbey in Virginia have left their mark on me. I’ve always liked the monks’ notion of directing all your energies towards one thing and one thing only. Every detail of your daily routine bent to maximize that one goal, and permission to leave all the other stuff behind. Now that’s freedom!
So I was recently delighted to find that a certain group of monks are companions of a sort in the green burial endeavor that Piedmont Pine Coffins is. The monks of Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, VA, have a natural burial cemetery, open to the public, on the grounds of their beautiful Blue Ridge monastery. It’s called Cool Spring Natural Cemetery.
It was a hot summer day now 20 years past when I visited Holy Cross Abbey. I remember serene vistas from Appalachian ridges, and I remember the wind. The wind blew around grazing cattle through tall pasture grass and hissed at me. It told me that the place was home, and a good home. Part of me wanted to stay there that day, and all of me says that it would be a great place to be buried green. What good earth to return to, what dust!
Trappist monks see themselves as stewards of the Earth, especially of the place that is their own monastery. Their stewardship flows from gratitude for the Earth-as-gift. You could easily guess that these folks are green burial naturals. They are green burial pros. Their own burial practices are perfectly green. They — or their brethren in Iowa at least — even sell caskets. (But since I’m in the business, I’ll go ahead and say it: You can get your coffin right here 🙂
Virginians, especially in the DC area, here, then, is your #1 green burial plan: Go to ground with the Trappists at Holy Cross Abbey in the Cool Spring Natural Cemetery.