Save the Date!

Katrina Spade, Founder of Urban Death Project, Coming to Vashon!


Thursday Evening, September 19, 2019

Vashon High School Theater

Modern funerary practices are ready for a makeover, and the Urban Death Project proposes one exciting possibility. What if we could grow new life after we die? Katrina Spade is the founder and director of the Urban Death Project, a new system for gently and sustainably disposing of the dead using the process of composting. She has a Masters of Architecture from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and she studied sustainable design at Yestermorrow Design Build School.

Washington became the first state to legalize “human composting” on May 21, when Gov. Jay Inslee signed a law that will allow human bodies to be converted into soil in licensed facilities. The state law, which passed with bipartisan support, is aimed at providing a burial alternative that is less costly and more environmentally friendly than cremation or traditional coffin burials. It will take effect on May 1, 2020. Vashon will learn all about the process and the future of human composting from the founder and master mind of this innovative process.

The Sacred Work of Grief

We live in a grief-averse society and many of us hold unexpressed sorrow deep in our bones. Finding community and learning to be with our grief through story, poetry, movement and ritual can help us open our hearts in order to be more fully present in our lives.

A half day workshop to explore the grief we carry, based on the work of Francis Weller, is being planned for this Fall. In his book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow, he describes the Five Gates of Grief: (1) personal loss, (2) parts of our being that have not been loved, (3) the sorrows of the world (environmental destruction, climate change, etc.), (4) what we expected but did not receive when we came into the world, and (5) ancestral grief.

This workshop will be led by students of Francis Weller who have done several workshops with him and been trained in facilitating grief rituals. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, please contact Jean Berolzheimer at for more information.

Book Discussion series . . .

A small group has been meeting to discuss Katy Butler’s new book The Art of Dying Well. This back-cover quote from Lucy Kalanithi, MD, invites us to savor Butler’s wisdom: “This is a book to devour, discuss, dog-ear and then revisit as the years pass. Covering matters medical, practical, financial and spiritual – and beautifully, their intersection – Katy Butler gives wise counsel for the final decades of our ‘wild and precious’ lives . . . It’s not only about dying. It’s about living intentionally and in community.”

The group met to discuss the first two chapters of the book on June 7. We considered Butler’s first chapter on Resilience with suggestions on how to build our physical, social and spiritual reserves with the intent of planning for a good death and reversing health problems while we still can. The second chapter on Slowing Down is, for many of us, a challenging invitation: simplifying daily life, reducing screenings, making peace with loss. The group met on June 28 to discuss chapters 3, 4 and 5. The chapters on Adaptation, Awareness of Mortality and House of Cards invited us to consider the inevitable – new physical and mental challenges, failing health and managing aging. It was a profound conversation as we shared our hopes and fears. Lots of discussion around down-sizing, simplifying and supporting one another.

The final session is scheduled for Friday, August 9, 9:30 – 11:30 with reading and discussion of chapters 6 and 7. We can’t recommend this book enough. You are welcome to join the conversation, as we discuss these last chapters. Please contact us at for information.

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Guest Bartender Night at The Hardware Store

Join us on Thursday evening, October 24 at The Hardware Store. We get to create our very own signature drink for the evening. The Vashon Conversation Project will net 100% of signature drink sales and 10% of all house purchases that evening. It will be great fun and the proceeds will enable us to offer more free events and activities! 

Building on Interest and Success . . .

Hundreds of Vashon Island residents participated in the four-day Vashon Conversation for the Living about Dying event in March 2017. The alchemy of passionate, committed volunteers, an engaged community and generous donors and sponsors created an amazing weekend.  

The weekend offered many different doorways into the subject of living and dying.  The goal was to offer opportunities for people of all comfort levels, learning styles, beliefs, cultures, ages and understanding to enter into the subject with curiosity and comfort.

“If I had my life to live over again, I would ask that not a thing be changed, but that my eyes be opened wider.”
— Jules Renard

The four-day event started as a simple vision and evolved into an eclectic mix of offerings designed to appeal to a broad audience.  Sandwiched between the Opening Celebration and Keynote on March 2 and ending with the Closing Celebration of Life and Remembrance on March 5, there were twelve events offering islanders a feast of possible ways to consider what for many is a difficult topic. It was an all-volunteer effort, involving more than 50 volunteers and a broad cross-section of our community – nonprofits, faith groups, key leaders, businesses and health care providers. The response was full and rich and enthusiastic.

Evaluation forms were designed for the seven presentations on Saturday and Sunday. Respondents were asked to rate each question on a scale of one to five with five being the highest rating. Responses regarding usefulness and relevance of information as well as quality of presenters were almost universally fives! This “word cloud” captures many of the words used to describe the offerings.

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Six "Before I Die" Boards were interspersed between the poignant work of more than 25 Vashon artists at the Two Wall Gallery. Vashon Rotary Club members constructed these beautiful boards that will be hung throughout the community in the coming year. Watch for them at the Farmer's Market, at Strawberry Festival, in our parks, and in your neighborhood!

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