Monday, 15 June 2009


The following post is a copy of an email dialogue that has resulted from the article 'The tree of life is growing - DIY Burial'. I am posting the contents of the emails (with permission of the sender) as I feel they raise some very interesting issues. At the end of this month Junes articles will be archived and this article will fall directly below the original article in the section of DIY burials.

Dear Jasmine,

I was extremely moved by your writing about the loss of your child. I cannot say that I can empathise since I am a man,not a mother, and moreover have no children. Nevertheless, I can sympthasize - a dear friend of mine lost her boy in a terrible car accident when he was about 19years old, in his healthiest and most optimistic years. I could feel her pain.

Anyhow, I found your story because I am involved in trying to develop a new concept for green cemeteries, similar to what exists already and yet with significant differences. Much of what you said about why you chose a woodland cemetery for your child resonates very deeply with me.

My only reservation concerns the memorialisation used in green or woodland cemeteries. Trees are beautiful and of all beings on the earth probably man's best and most faithful friend. They have provided us shelter, fuel, clothing, food, and spiritual help throughout our existence as a species. And they can also be wonderful symbols of life continuing through death - as they bloom and grow new leaves after every winter.

And yet they too are mortal - and in the current world, that is particularly true. Who knows how long a tree will be allowed to live, or protected in order that it may thrive. Nature also takes trees away from us through disease etc. And even being located in parks and woodland cemeteries is no guarantee anymore.

Last week I was particularly disturbed by a story about a stolen bulldozer being run through a woodland cemetery somewhere in England, uprooting trees and GPS markers. When I read your story, I had to imagine again the trauma for those who had planted trees above the remains of their loved ones in this cemetery.

My point is that I believe a tree alone is not a sufficient marker for those who believe in leaving an eternal sign of the life of a loved one. But a tree with a durable marker next to it would guarantee that a memory remains for generations, if not centuries. I would like a beautifully weathered old boulder, with a simple engraving of the name, next to an oak seedling which would hopefully grow for many centuries.

Generally speaking, the existence of these markers would also guarantee the long term existence of the woodland cemetery much better than only trees. The question is only about not disturbing the natural setting with ugly pretentious monuments.

I wish you a wonderful life with your daughter and a never-dying memory of the soul of your other child who returned so quickly to where she came from.


PS If you are interested, I try to promote my ideas on

Dear Thomas,

Thank you for your email, the content gave me a lot to think about. The posted article was actually the second draft. I lost the first copy, I still hope I'll find it somewhere on my laptop.

The first draft was a lot more environmental and political too, it went into detail about creating SSSI's, environmental stewardship, European and UK protections of endangered species. I also went into how that is not enough to protect the animals or the land. I mentioned Twyford Down, the Tribe of the Donga's and how that was not enough to stop the road being built through it. I discussed badgers, how they are a protected species yet as they are considered a TB threat they are now culled in the UK.

I also mentioned that a friend of mine who did research for the Woodland Trust many years ago, found that sheep were being herded into covetts in ancient Welsh woodland to shelter on the evening. This meant that no new saplings were growing under the canopies and when the trees died in 50 years time (or before) then the forest would too if action was not taken to restore the forests.

I was trying to encourage people to use as many laws of the land as possible in conjunction with each other to gain maximum protection for the site and help it thrive.

After all, if being a protected species, lying on hallowed land or being a site of ancient archaeological interest as well as an SSSI in themselves do not provide protection then we need to think smarter to protect our loved ones and our beautiful earth.

If an estimated 25% of the entire human population is alive today, and each planted one tree in a maintained site, well, the possibilities are exciting.

I would like your permission to post the content of your email to the comments below the article as I really like the raising of issues the content provides. Of course if you are not comfortable with this I will respect your privacy.

Thank you again for sending the email.

Kind regards,


Hi Jasmine,

You can certainly post it with your article - I would be happy if you could include my web site address.

I fully agree that if sites are disturbed despite all the legal impediments, then we need other solutions. You should understand that I come at this primarily from the point of view of the eternal peace of the cemetery and secondarily from the environmental concerns. In fact I have an idea that does reconcile the two and it involves using land that is intrinsically resistant to development of any kind - that is, it is naturally protected and does not require (ineffective) legal protection.

These lands are also in need of environmental rehabilitation, which would happen with the green cemetery. Thus the land is rehabilitated and a truly eternal cemetery is created in one process. The key is the type of land that is used - and that is something I am keeping confidential except to partners. There is too high a risk of the idea being swiped and misused merely for profit.

You may also add the above paragraphs to the article comments if you like.




ArtSparker said...

I can only comment from the emotional/environmental point of view - It feels to me as if embracing the trees (as opposed to engraved markers) is a move toward engaging with the whole, possibly a more Eastern perspective. In "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill", the author quotes a Tibetan teacher as saying that individual lives are briefly glimpsed facets of a great river, which returns to its source. .

Jasmine said...

That is really beautiful, I will look out for that book.

When I buried Nina, the site we chose asked us to consider the whole site as the memorial and not just the individual tree. Indeed, the tree or bulbs/seeds that I had planted may not necessarily be planted directly over her plot as planting can only happen when an area is filled. Nina, lies in a meadow area, and her tree will be planted later this year in a woodland area in a different part of the field.

I like the idea of the entire reserve being a part of Nina's resting place and not just the small patch she was buried in.

This allows me the pleasure of contributing seeds bulbs etc in the future with the intention of assisting the wildlife of the area, enhancing the protections of the site (hopefully by attracting rare birds, endangered animals etc through choice of planting) and honouring my daughter further. There is so much more to a project like this than an individual tree.