Spider time & death-positive conferences


In spider time. Will Cook photo.

These are the days of the large orb weavers at Melleray Farmstead, cottage industrial home to Piedmont Pine Coffins. At dusk their webs are everywhere stretched across paths and under eaves and in corners. You root for them, except when you find them with your face in the morning.

The orb weavers at the tail end of summer are one of the many signs that the season of disintegration is nigh. It’s not here yet — we’re still liminal. Fall officially starts in a week, and there’s still a lot going on. The crownbeard is blossoming. The persimmons are about to be ripe. The broom grass is sharp and rough like sharkskin, not yet fluffy with tufted seed. Green locust pods and black walnut hulls are about to fall. Orion and Taurus and Canis Major are showing off above our driveway all night long.

It’s a fitting time for two death-positive conferences, one in early October and one right before Thanksgiving. Both will be gatherings of disruptive innovators — if you can label as “new”  the people who want to recall old-fashioned ways of death care.

The National Home Funeral Alliance is gathering in Los Gatos, CA (south of San Francisco) October 2-4. I remember from 2013 that sitting with this group of death midwives at their conference in Raleigh was an experience of hearing story after story that brought you into the presence of infinity and onto the verge of tears. On the business side, there will be upwards of 5 coffin and shroud vendors in attendance, including Piedmont Pine Coffins.

The Death Expo hosted by End of Life University’s Karen Wyatt is a virtual happening for four days in late November (by which time we at Melleray Farmstead will certainly be using leftover coffin wood for kindling the wood stove at night). Piedmont Pine Coffins is one of the main sponsors for this online event.

Both conferences will help recharge us in the fallow season with an impressive line-up of speakers, and, more importantly, an impressive group of death-positive end-of-life activists.

That buzzword: death-positive. What a great mood word for fall changing into winter.


  1. “Death midwives.” What a phrase, this and so many others. So glad you will add wares to the Los Gatos conference. Thank you for cusp-season “death-positive” writing!