By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
As Dundon puts it, “The county sees a collection of infection, but upon inspection it’s really confection from the resurrection . . .” However, since those brushes with the county, Dundon has not given away any compost from his actual heap. What he hauls to people’s gardens comes straight from the stables, and he charges them only a “friendly” delivery fee of $35 — or more, if they live farther away.
Recently, I went to visit Dundon and his notorious heap. He lives a few blocks from me in the house he grew up in. From Fair Oaks Avenue, west Altadena’s main north-south thoroughfare, you can see the foliage in his yard — the cacti, tropicals, vines and palms — straining at the encircling hurricane fence.
Dundon is watering in the back of his property. I follow the sound of water, back along the house on a path of damp humus under a leaf-canopied yard. The sun breaks through in shafts and the temperature drops a good 10 degrees. I find him among the coleus and veiny caladiums, whose leaves are painterly spills of chartreuse, hot pink, white and burgundy and glow with downright psychedelic vigor. I exclaim over a canna whose red-, yellow- and green-striped leaves are as large as rowboat oars.
“Plants don’t have to work as hard here,” Dundon says. “Their stress level is eliminated. They’re happy.”
Clearly. Spider webs in the tall cacti sparkle with water drops. Sleek, small, iridescent bantam chickens calmly peck and cluck about our feet. “If you could interview them,” Dundon says, “they’d say they were pretty happy too.” The air is not only cooler, but sweeter, full of oxygen, while just a few yards away, it’s late summer as usual in Altadena — blistering hot and so smoggy you can barely see the mountains a mile off.
Dundon and I take seats on lawn furniture near the edge of the property and look out onto the vacant acreage behind it that belongs to the cemetery. The part of the heap that was bulldozed away was spread over this land, where it promptly sprouted a field of California poppies — and was just as promptly sprayed with herbicide, an added insult that Dundon still finds rankling. “I guess it was just was too beautiful, and therefore had to be destroyed.”
The vast, dry vacant lot has recently been leased to a firewood cutter, and piles of logs and dead brush have been randomly dumped on it. “Do they really prefer that to this?” Dundon says, waving back at his own private Eden.
But he doesn’t linger amid dark thoughts for long.
“The whole scene is so full of life, you can’t spend time here without feeling better. The more people do this” — he again indicates his own private botanical heaven — “the better the world becomes. Happiness and health could spontaneously break out. How would the huge pharmaceutical companies like that? If you get life and beauty like this into convalescent homes, people’s last days would be their best days.”
Dundon has many such ideas and plans — he’d like to use composting waste material to build beautiful green memorial parks all over the world. He’d especially like work with Paul McCartney to build a memorial to John and George and Linda and call it Church Hill. He’d like to have a rock festival with his favorite musicians, Creedence Clearwater, the Beatles — and call it Crapstock. He’d like all schoolchildren to be educated in responsible solid-waste management from grade school on.
He and I walk back through the shade and plants toward my car. “Everything here has been eaten and pooped out. All is technically number two. It’s a perfect scheme of nature that God provided. We have everything today to make a paradise on Earth.”
I think of my own now nearly weedless yard, how the compost has fed my trees, caused my zucchini and roses to grow with almost unruly friskiness, and how the whole third of an acre at least is contained, readied for design and planting. “You’re absolutely right,” I say.
And he laughs out loud.