The first stop on Doughty’s trip is the small town of Crestone, Colorado. She was invited to attend an open air cremation on the town’s community pyre. The deceased was a woman, Laura, that had died suddenly, likely as a result of heart problems. In lieu of a conventional (or as the group that performed the cremation would say, commercial) cremation at a crematory, Laura chose to be cremated in the open air.
Before the fire was lit, everyone in attendance laid juniper on Laura’s body. Doughty was conflicted as to whether she should, since she isn’t a member of the community. In the end she decided to go along with the ceremony, actively participating rather than just observing. I think that she made the right call. She was invited to this ceremony, and it seemed like those around her were accepting of her participation.
Doughty describes the cremation with respect and reverence. There’s a beautiful wood block style illustration of Laura’s pyre before it was lit. Doughty talks about how that community pyre came to be in that town, and how it’s become part of the community. She also discusses other culture’s attitudes towards open-air cremation, namely in Hindu and Buddhist communities. While she in no way claims that their methods of dealing with their dead are perfect, she discusses the implications of the modern, commercialized funeral industry on their beliefs.
Doughty doesn’t claim that open-air cremations are something that every single person should want, but only argues that it’s something that can work, even if those in the industry want to claim that it doesn’t. A member of the Crestone community can get cremated on the pyre for much less than if they chose to have a traditional funeral.
Just a heads up, expect the posts to be a little shorter for a while. While From Here to Eternity is a great read, it is pretty short, so I won’t drone on and on more than I have to.