“The love of dirt is among the earliest of passions, as it is the latest. Mud-pies gratify one of our first and best instincts. So long as we are dirty, we are pure. Fondness for the ground comes back to a man after he has run the round of pleasure and business, eaten dirt, and sown wild oats, drifted about the world, and taken the wind of all its moods. The love of digging in the ground (or of looking on while he pays another to dig) is as sure to come back to him, as he is sure, at last, to go under the ground, and stay there.”
— Charles Dudley Warner
As I may have mentioned, my father was a farmer.
I say “he was a farmer” like he chose that as a profession for awhile, but in truth, he did what many Depression Era children did: as a child, he helped the family keep a roof over their head and food on the table.
My grandfather was a sharecropper and relied upon my father to get the crops planted, tend them, and harvest them. He began driving a tractor at the age of nine and and didn’t head off to school with his sisters until the late summer crops had been harvested and the earth readied for fall. Many years he began the school year two or more weeks late.
After leaving home, my father never wanted the backbreaking life of a farmer, yet couldn’t keep his hands out of the earth. We had vegetable gardens during most of my elementary years, and for years, his yard was awarded the coveted Yard of the Month with it’s lustrous St. Augustine grass and perfectly tended flower beds.
The backyard, with its fragrant roses, was more beautiful than the front.
Age and poor health have robbed him of his ability to actively work in his yard now and has had to hire someone to mow, but he still provides loving care tending to a few hanging plants that have been around for decades.
I always wanted to have a beautiful yard and a bountiful garden. I’d plant radishes when he planted okra, cucumbers and tomatoes. I realized, however, that I didn’t quite have his green thumb, though, the year I tried planting cantaloupes and watermelons.
Over the years of being a grown-up, I’ve tried my hand at varying types of gardening. I’ve learned that I can grow mint, basil and rosemary, but veggies are pretty much out of my realm of expertise. So, I go for beauty if I can’t create bounty from the earth and try my hand at flowers.
About two months after JB moved into this house, I planted daffodil bulbs in a small patch of earth around our little pond. I say “our little pond”, but at the time, I hadn’t committed to Ohio being my home yet.
Planting those daffodils was like holding my heart out to God, a leap of faith that I would be here to see them burst forth from the ground the following spring.
We are approaching our fifth year in this home together now. The daffodils that I planted that first fall have been joined by annual plantings of more daffodils along with tulips and hyacinths buried deep into the dirt with that underlying faith that we’ll be here to witness the next spring (along with the hope that the squirrels don’t dig up too many of them.)
The earth calls to me when summer approaches, though. The remnants of the bulbs need to be clipped after fading and there’s always weeds to pluck and creeping grass to be tamed.
What I am compelled to do, though, is put my (gloved) hands into the dirt. To free the soil from any stray bits of greenery where it doesn’t belong. To use a sharp spade to cut through the layers – from rich top soil down to sticky clay. To gently free any earthworms I’ve excavated in my urge to coax beauty from the earth.
Summer calls not for burying treasure into the earth to await the spring, but to highlight delicate blossoms. So, I transplant a scattering of hearty periwinkles to provide us with the pleasure of beauty.
As I sit back on my heels to admire my handiwork, I realize that though I may not have much of a green thumb, digging in the dirt is a sacred ritual and I understand my father’s need to farm in some small way.
It’s the consecration of making a plot of land home.
“To dig in one’s own earth, with one’s own spade, does life hold anything better?”
– Beverly Nichols
Images: Tractor (Stock Photo via MorgueFile), Shovel by Jaina J via Flickr Creative Commons, Summer Flowers Debra Smouse
About the Author – Debra Smouse
My truth? In order to live life the way you were meant to, you must fall in love with the day-to-day activity of living.
I spend my days writing and working with people who want to change the world, beginning with themselves.
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A life coach and writer, me and my Gypsy Soul have stopped their constant roaming and have settled down in Dayton, OH where I share life’s adventures with the Man of My Dreams.
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