Nathaniel Hawthorne was 37 years old when he wrote a letter to his beloved fiancé about the excruciating hours and days and weeks he spent shoveling dung at Brook Farm in West Roxbury, Mass. in the year 1841. The farm was an experiment in social reform started by a UU minister a few years before. Many high-minded folks at the time were attracted to the idea of living in a community inspired by the hopeful dream of a better world. A few years ago, I was inspired to take a group of NH students to go live and plant trees and shovel humanure at an eco-ashram in India. We learned a lot about compost and veganism, ecology and the messy miracle that is living within the inter-connected web of life. Out of this experience, I gained a new spiritual perspective on consumption, community, work and waste. It was also very hard, very sweaty, very dirty. Hawthorne only lasted at Brook Farm for 8 months. I put in 3 short weeks at the ashram. But the lessons continue, and it’s still a messy miracle.