Friday, March 23, 2012

Getting Dirty

The hum of the tiller harmonized with the birds singing their gossip from the tops of the trees. Several stray bees danced a dizzy pattern near my head and I ducked to avoid them. The muscles in my husband's back knotted and twisted through his sweat soaked t shirt as he forced the swirling tines deeper into the ground, causing a pinwheel of black loam to churn outwards.

I used the rake to claw loose the detached strands of grass, pulling them into a heap at the corner of the large patch we were preparing for a new planting of featherweight flower seeds. The green aroma stored in the now mangled blades of grass saturated the air with fragrant liberation.

I knelt to dislodge a few rocks from the loose soil and the velvety softness of the fine earth captivated me. I plunged my hand further downwards until it was covered to my wrist with the rich blackness. Deep stillness and peace infused me.

A wiry grass snake, disturbed from his resting place, did not even fluster me as he undulated past my arm in pursuit of more settled surroundings.

A few more swipes with the rake and then the temptation overrode everything else. I slipped off my shoes and let my toes sink into the supple cushion of sod, more lush than the finest fabric. The rake fell away and I dug my feet all the way in. The warm top layer of dirt gave way to the cooler, moist layers. If I had paid for a spa treatment,  I couldn't have been more luxuriously cosseted.

I knelt all the way down and inhaled deeply. The dirt, something I fight so heartily indoors, whispered gently to me. Old as the planet itself, it spoke of stability, of constancy, of the life that used to be and of the new life yet to come.

I plunged my hands in once more and felt something small and smooth. I pulled it up. It was a winsome brown button. I smiled. This was also a plot where my grandmother and my great grandmother before her tilled their gardens.

And that great continuum of what they put into the land and what it gave back to them, and what I was putting into the land and what it would give back to me, moved onward through its steady course.

70 comments:

  1. Man oh man oh man, Shelly, I love your writing! When we were children we loved to get dirty and messy. I believe in letting the inner child come out and play. It was good therapy for you to sink yourself into the rich goodness of that soil and have all of your senses delighted at the same time. I can only imagine how you felt when you found that old button, realized that it was possibly buried there for decades and probably popped loose from garments worn by your grandmother or great grandmother as they toiled in the garden. There is nothing as basic and honest as dirt and no occupation as rewarding as planting seeds, growing plants and flowers or reaping a harvest of food.

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    1. Shady: It truly was a wonderful feeling- something that had been left there, last touched by one of them, and then not touched again until I did. It is an unparalleled satisfaction to grow something out of our ordinary yet extraordinary earth. Have a great weekend, my friend!

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  2. Shady's right. I LOVED playing in mud and dirt as a child, but now I watch my own kids running barefooted through our pasture and I cringe! Not just because I know they'll be carrying it back to the house later, but also because I don't know how they can stand it. What happened? Why can I not step foot outside--even to just call the kids in for dinner--without at least flip-flops on my feet?

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  3. Nancy: I used to go barefoot outside every day, I would get really dirty cleaning pens and mucking stalls (with boots on then!), etc., and now, like you, I can't stand to be dirty. I hope I've learned my lesson, though, and will be able to tolerate and even enjoy it from time to time.

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  4. Shelly - Wonderful post. Very evocative! We are writing from opposite sides of the "dirt issue" today. :)

    Have a wonderful day - Marsha

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  5. Marsha: Thank you! I'm headed over to your blog now~

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  6. Hi Shelly,
    I love your writing =)
    Have a lovely Day!

    Eva

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    1. Eva: Thank you! I hope your weekend is wonderful~

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  7. So very wonderfully written it was almost as though my fingers and toes were squiggling in the soil, too!

    "The dirt, something I fight so heartily indoors, whispered gently to me."

    Jerry Clower once explained the difference between "dirt" and "soil" somewhat in this fashion. Soil was created in which to grow our wonderful crops and flowers. Dirt is what you find under the refrigerator, and so on. God made soil. The devil made dirt. :o)

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    1. vanilla: I used to love hearing Jerry Clower when I was a kid! He even came to our church once. His definitions of soil and dirt are right on. Gave me a smile!

      Thank you and have a terrific weekend!

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  8. I wrote a post this week on the horrors of farming and growing things and you have done an admirable job of defending the other side. Great post.

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    1. Stephen: I've noticed several posts about dirt and farming this week, and I think mine is the only one on the affirmative!

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  9. This was a beautiful writing - possibly my favorite to date. I love the smell of earth in a garden too - even better when there's been a little rain, or when there's rainstorm in the air. That damp earth smell takes me right back to childhood. How wonderful to find that button - a small connection to those who went before.

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    1. Karen: Thank you! You are so kind! I know exactly what you mean with that damp earth smell, mixed with the rain smell- I wish it could be exactly bottled and sold. Gosh, that would be heavenly! And yes, that little button is always going to be very special to me. :)

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  10. Excellent bit of prose, my dear Shelly. A pleasure to read and experience.

    Your sinking your feet and toes into the lush lawn reminds me of the last time I stepped in dog doo. Seriously---it had this sensation of ethereal surrealness, if I can coin a phrase. I mean, I knew when I stepped in it that it was doo, but yet it had this dream-like texture and it actually felt good as it slowly squished up between my toes.

    Of course, when that happens, all you can do is treasure the feeling, and tip your hat to God for His sense of humor.

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    1. Clint: You SERIOUSLY crack me up! I have to go to practice for our church's passion play tonight, and I'm afraid I'm going to be thinking of this and stifling laughs when I'm supposed to be all serious-like...

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  11. Beautiful writing, as always my friend. How wonderful to be digging in the same soil as your ancestors, and finding that button. That must have been very special. I watch my two youngest grandchildren digging in my garden, getting dirty, picking up worms and screaming with glee. It's something that all young children should be able to do.

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    1. Thisisme: It is really special to me, as I know it must be to you to see your grandkids digging in the same garden you work. I love blessings like that. Thank you for your always kind words, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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  12. From sun up to sun down, when we were kids we were roaming all over the place, digging in dirt and loving every second of it. We would be gone for hours and it seems our mothers never worried about us. There was an Amber alert in my daughter's neighborhood last week, the playmate of my grandson had been gone about 40 minutes and was at my daughter's house. I can understand this in today's world.

    I can't get over your talent, Shelly! Beautifully written and loved it that you found the old button. There is one thing that would have broken the serenity for me in this scene, the "wiry grass snake" ;~)

    One more thing, from what "they" say, all this "cleanliness" today accounts for all these allergies. I would not be surprised.

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    1. Cindy: it is so sad to me that we have lost that simple, safer world we had then. I'm really sad for the kids of today who won't get to experience it. I think you're right- the super cleaners are affecting immune systems.

      You are always so very sweet- thank you!

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  13. So enjoyed reading this, Shelly; I was with you,you described it so well, I could feel the dirt between my toes and smell it with my nose! Very desciptive! I have to say, the snake though......not sure how I would handle that :)

    thanks for sharing :)

    enjoy the weekend

    betty

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    1. Betty: The snake would have normally given me the willies, but I was so relaxed it really didn't bother me! Thank you, and I hope your weekend is terrific, also~

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  14. oh yes...i told my kids last week when they grow up they HAVE to have a garden...they said Why? and then I told them why!

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    1. momto8: A garden should be essential for everyone!

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  15. Wonderfully written post, Shelly! I love going barefoot and the feel of soft dirt or sand on my feet. How blessed to find that button, and I love the fact your family has lived on the same land for so long. I come from a family of nomads. We've lived in different cities and in those cities dozens of houses.

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    1. Belle: Nothing like bare feet! I'm going to cherish that little button for a long time. Thank you, my sweet friend!

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  16. Oh, Shelly, you make me want--no yearn to garden again!!! I have not had a good garden since my 2nd was just a baby, it's just been too hard to not give it the time it needs. I love digging in the earth, there is something about digging in the earth with our own hands and working the land. What a treasure to find a button, to wonder whose it was and what it was on, and how it was lost.

    When we lived in our old house, (where I had my last good garden) there had been one other family that had lived in that house and they had 2 kids, now adults....I'd find marbles and legos in the dirt, It really made me realize how fast these kids grow up and wondered how they were playing and how they lost these treasures....

    Makes me want to bury something now.

    Thanks for the spring story. (I could have done without that snake in it though!! hahah--gives me the creeps!)

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    1. Jamie: I know your day to have a huge garden is coming soon. The kids are getting old enough to help and I know they will love it.

      I love how you found treasures of the other family, and I really love how you are talking about burying something. I think I actually want to do that- find some little object and bury it somewhere here so hopefully my grandchildren and great grandchildren will one day find it!

      Have a terrific weekend with your beautiful family!

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  17. Shelly you have such a way with words and this post was one of your best. The love affair you were having with the soil was intoxicating and brought back memories of the awesome scent that was in the air after a field was freshly plowed and turned over. The only thing that made it better was a fresh rain that made the scent even richer. I miss those days.

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    1. Odie: Thank you, my friend, for your very kind words! Ahh, newly plowed ground, fresh cut grass, and rain...doesn't get much better than that. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  18. This post is so beautifully written and transporting, Shelley. I just love it!

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    1. Dr. Kathy: I love to dwell in moments and places like this in my mind. Thank you!

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  19. Your writing has such a lovely depth to it. A joy to read. :)

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    1. Lydia: Thank you for your kind words!

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  20. I love that you found that button. It is the voice of my ancestors that stirs my soul the most. I know they surround me and my loved ones constantly as a protection. This was beautifully written, Shelley.

    I love to be barefoot. I hope I never lose that passion for fresh, clean dirt between my toes. It's a great feeling.

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    1. Crystal: Thank you for your kind words. I, too, love to think about the ones who came before me. I like to think of their DNA running through me and them being in that great cloud of witnesses around us.

      Being barefoot in loose, soft dirt is such a luxurious feeling, and it's free to boot!

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  21. Shelly, what a lovely post. You have a way with words. Appreciate you. Blessings.

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    1. Just Be Real: Thank you! You are such an uplifter!

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  22. I loved reading this, it reminded me of childhood days on a farm. Imagine finding a button from your mum or grandmother.. You are reliving their lives and all of you are fused as one.. That's a beautiful heritage.

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    1. Crystal Mary: I am so blessed to have the heritage I have. And, yes, I also dearly love the connections in their lives and mine. Truly a wonderful thing. Have a wonderful day, my friend!

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  23. Sitting here, the alabaster walls of my office surrounding me, the tick of the clock....and without warning, you thrust me into the magic of your mind. Simply divine.

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    1. Chantel: A wonderful compliment- thank you!

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  24. Dearest Shelly,
    Wow, what an awesome writing♡♡♡ I know I won't be able to express like the way you did even in Japanese♬♬♬ Thank you SO much for the beautiful feeling after reading. You are my special friend!!!
    What a romantic finding you had☆☆☆ I wish I could live in the same place and share the memories.
    I am kind of sad that our little flower garden had turned into hubby's room a couple years ago. I used to plant tulips in fall and love to see bloomimg when spring comes. Nature is tender for us.
    Love you always, xoxo Miyako*

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    1. Orchid: You are always so kind to me, my dear friend Miyako! You are an excellent writer and your English always amazes me.

      I, too, wish you could have your little flower garden again. Nature is wonderful, especially this time of year! Have a wonderful day, sweet friend!

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  25. Poetry, Shelly: the earth, your words, your grandmother's continued presence.

    I await the barefoot moment here in Minneapolis. My grandmother and I also gardened together, and the smell of warm, ready earth is enough to make me cry.

    In a good way. :-)

    Pearl

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    1. Pearl: I consider it such a wonderful blessing to be able to put my hands in the same dirt my grandma and her mom also gardened, and I feel so close to them still when I do. I hope your barefoot moment comes soon.

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  26. Awesome and I love the feeling of the moist green grass between my toes

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  27. You winsome, and you loosesome. Moments nestled in loamsomeness are best.

    I planted a grapefruit seed about a week ago, we'll soon see it's level of weakness.

    I somehow missed seeing you on my reading list, so I got to the party late!

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    1. esboston: Oh, how witty you are, my friend!

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  28. I couldn't say it as eloquently as you do, but I feel it. I totally know what you mean.

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    1. Sweet Tea: I think it's something so deep within all of us- this love of the land and of what we can coax out of it~

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  29. Your writing is deliciously satisfying and as theraputic as that loamy soil, which I also love to dig into. This piece is worthy of a literary award! Maybe because it is prose of the highest order, attending to a subject we can all relate to. Each one of us is connected by soil; so you are not only in contact with past generations but with the wider world. Stunning, beautiful language...and don't ever tell me you are not artistic! Your medium is words.

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    1. Jenny: You are always so very kind- thank you! I do heartily believe that we all, no matter where on this planet we live, have that ancient connection to the soil. And with it, I think we all have that recognition somewhere in us, that we are tied to it and to each other.

      Thank you again, my friend! I hope your day is fantastic there in your beautiful area!

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  30. What a gorgeous meditation on life, our earth, and growth. Loved this post.

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  31. Dear Shelly, . . . your "archeological" dig gave you an artifact that connected you with your ancestors. How lovely. And what will someone find a one years from now from your life? Did you drop a second button into the earth? What would you like to leave for someone to discover in the far distant future? Peace.

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    1. Dee: You read my mind. I've been pondering that very excellent suggestiona and I am going to leave something there, hopefully for my future grandchildren or great grandchildren. How wonderful that would be!

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  32. Beautiful writing. I would have FREAKED OUT if a snake undulated past my arm!

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    1. Missed Periods: I'm surprised I didn't- but it was a small one, thankfully!

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  33. Awesome post Shelly love .Sometimes I soil m hands :).

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  34. Oh! how I wish that my parents and their gardener were alive so they could read this entry. Thanks for such a beautiful job of writing about soil. My God you are a fine writer !
    I had missed a weeks of blog reading and was missing it so much. Patience always pays. I get to read beautiful work:)

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    1. Munir: You are always so kind to me- thank you! I know you and your family have that same connection to the soil and growing things that I do. It's something special and sacred to me.

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  35. There is nothing like this time of year. I've been planting this week too.
    Good post.

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    1. Life 101: This time of the year and harvest are the very best for me. Nothing like it.

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