I awoke to the most luscious dream of digging in the soil. Dark, firm-but-soft and deep, it received my shovel as if it were a spoon sinking into a fresh, warm batch of fudge. There’s no difference in the delight for me, really, though I taste my garden soil only by accident when the earth spits back at my face and my spade. But I could as easily blanket myself in either with the same level of joy. Chocolate and soil; rich and good.
I dreamt I was standing over the new oblong bed of rich brown which my hens helped me prepare through months of turning, pecking and enriching the earth beneath their coop. Already the perfect size and shape to receive my organic seeds and starts once the last frost passes mid-April, it beckons me. How can I explain to those who don’t love the soil how I feel when a well-prepared stretch of earth awaits me? It’s as though both it and I share a longing to be well-utilized, to produce something of great value, to create a thing of vibrant, flourishing beauty, to fulfill our purpose.
The dream was a rare one in the absence of all anxiety, the experience of peace. Had I been at home instead of visiting family when I awoke, I’d likely have bundled up and grabbed my shovel to turn the soil in the pre-dawn quiet. Exhilaration, anticipation; no better way to express this scene, me observing the beauty of the soil, awaiting the moment when I may loosen it to receive my spring garden. The seeds are bought, plans drawn, timeline written. But now, in winter, I must hold for the warming of the lengthening days as I observe the slow dawning of each morning in my quiet reading spot. These moments are slow and calm, and I can observe nothing but the hues of sunrise through the windowpane. This is the place where I find peace, or where peace finds and envelops me. This is the waiting I find agreeable.
How men walk and stand at all times on the earth and fail to notice the lovely life beneath their feet is beyond me. We call soil “dirt,” and with regret consider how it infiltrates our tidy lives. We wash it away, sweep it out. We forget it is from soil we were made by a loving, infinitely intelligent God; that our lives and relationship to Him are ever intertwined with our relationship with land. We fail to rejoice in the exuberant life teeming beneath our soles, and our connection to soil- that it sustains us by sustaining our food which grows in it. We disavow our pollinators and their vital dance from growing thing to growing thing, ensuring our nourishment while they live. We push to great distance the growing of our food, then pay to bring it back again, devoid of dirt, but also of flavor.
We overlook the joy in squeezing mud between our toes and fingers, the plucking of violets that kept us as children close to the soil. Perhaps when we begin, low and crawling, face to the ground, it is economy of life at its best. Simple-minded, we touch, gaze, taste, experience the un-separateness of our feet and the earth in ways we soon grow to forget. We develop a belief of distinction between it and us that is not so concrete as we think. We are alive to flourish, to grow, to produce, to create, and give glory back to God. The soil is ever doing its best. Why not us?
Who or what taught us to fear or disdain the soil? The enjoyment of its coolness beneath the summer grass, the staining of our fingernails, the delight in watching sprouts pop up from seed? Was it our first grade teachers, our parents? It is only natural for us to live in agreement, in connection- that physical and emotional link with land which cannot ever be broken. Every gardener, every one who shares the agrarian soul, exemplifies the truth, this understanding of our dependence. We must share this gift of life and of joy, passion and fulfillment, with those around us.
If our calling is to aid the flourishing of the land and growth of its fruits, let us spread truth like compost- the precious, priceless treasure that enlivens all it touches, fostering deep roots, strong stem, life-propagating seed amidst delicious fruits and nectar-filled blossoms. Let us hoe out the invasive perspectives that have rooted and would choke out the good stuff, prune away dead philosophies, and seed new understanding in those we know. May we propagate a new love of the soil, and concern for all living things that are connected. All our lives depend on it.