Jodie Buller is always on the move. She spends a lot of time traversing highways and biways of the Pacific Northwest in her trusty Subaru to do her work in the world. Fortunately we were able to catch her on a rare break and have a chat.
I consider you to be a true Indie Renaissance Woman. How many professional hats do you wear?
I am currently the Cemetery Manager at White Eagle, Co-Manager of the Mount Vernon Farmers Market, a host and producer for KSVR (Community Radio for the Skagit Valley), and support staff for my father’s work with Loyalty Solutions Group, which looks at creating “All-In” Culture and collaborative work environments. I’m also drawn to event work – right now I’m gearing up for the 15th annual Subdued Stringband Jamboree, which is where I learned to love Logistics, Operations, and Volunteer Coordination.
What would you consider to be the common thread that draws you to these various projects?
I did marketing and outreach work for the Skagit Valley Food Co-op for 6 years before putting on most of these other hats, and in that role, I really valued the opportunity to spread the Good, so to speak. I spent a long portion of beginning adulthood in a state of semi-despair about all the wrongness and backwards priorities in our culture, and I find that to stave off the deep cynicism, I need to be working diligently toward reparation and remediation. Each of these threads – re-localizing food systems, re-claiming death and dying on the community level, interviewing people about their passions for independent community-based radio programming, and paradigm shift in organizational cultures – help to re-balance aspects of our reality that are off-kilter.
How did you become involved with White Eagle Memorial Preserve?
I learned about White Eagle through my friend Shonie, who is now Executive Director of Sacred Earth Foundation, the non-profit which stewards a land trust, Ekone summer camps for kids, and White Eagle. SEF’s founder wanted a natural burial, and he wanted to be buried on the land he spent his life stewarding. When he had a heart attack in 2007, his loved ones kept him sheltered at the funeral home in Goldendale while they went through the process of designating 20 acres of the land trust as a natural burial ground, so they could fulfill his wishes. Shonie moved back to Ekone to help keep the place going and I came out to visit later that fall of 2008. I was deeply moved by the place – I remember pulling my car over off Hwy 14 on the drive home, because I needed to write down the brainstorm that was happening in my head. I became a friend of the place, and started working with them in 2013.
What has been the most rewarding part of your experience working on Death:OK?
I signed up to volunteer during a 1am internet wormhole session, not quite sure what I was getting into, but knowing that I wanted a deeper & wider sense of connection to the community of practitioners working with death and dying. I love that we are creating metaphorical and actual safe space in which to be real about grief, and to normalize and re-integrate this arc of the life cycle.
Do you remember when you first learned about death?
I started to write that I was pretty sheltered from death until adulthood – which is true in my family life – but a classmate of mine in elementary school was killed with his family, and looking back, it was a foundational shockwave. A number of threads have been weaving this path for me since my mid-20s, but I didn’t begin to learn death personally until I walked with a Love through the last 9 months of his life. Many seeds planted during that time.
What would you want folks to eat and drink at your wake?
I think there is a harkening back to family lineage with a wake, which in my case is Norwegian and Scots identified – so there will need to be Lefse, since I am the family’s Lefse maker during the holidays. And there will be scotch – always neat, as my granda scolded, or ye bruise the scotch. Also pumpkin pie and s’mores. And bacon – I think many people savor life more in the presence of bacon.
If you could have a jam session with folks both living and dead who would you invite?
This is a pertinent question right now, as I’m about to dive into a festival weekend full of jam sessions with many musicians near and dear to me, and so one answer is that it doesn’t matter who shows, I just want it to happen around a campfire at Jamboree while the Perseid meteor shower is overhead. A quick list of guest stars that come to mind though: (I’m a poet, so the jam needs must include not just the music) Levon Helm, Van Morrison (but only if he is feeling it), Marge Piercy, Alan Watts, Shane Koyczan, Wayne Coyne, David Whyte, Saul Williams…