Down and Dirty

This week’s gardening lesson was entitled Soils. My preference for an alternative title is to simply say dirt, something I have known about since childhood. Besides, in my mind soil is a verb. It is what old men do to themselves when they are incontinent and I have not reached that stage in life just yet. So today’s message is about dirt.

The diss on dirt is just that; it is dirty. To most people that implies filth, which is something we expend a great deal of time, energy and money to avoid it if possible and eliminate when we become contaminated. The stain on our skin and on our clothes is seemingly nothing compared to the corruption of our self-esteem when we believe that others are judging us for our inability to be sufficiently sanitized to attain hygienic sainthood.

Dirt is a marvelous thing. People who study it tell us that it is a composite of decomposed rock (in the form of sand, silt and clay) and organic material. Plants of various kinds thrive in it based on their compatibility with its nutrient value. And we in turn rely on those plants for our food, clothing and shelter. The child in us, however, is primarily concerned with only one thing; how well does it hold up to the games we wish to play, whether that means making mud pies, constructing roads and tunnels for our toy trucks to traverse, or its suitability as a baseball diamond. Too many rocks spoil the trajectory of an aptly named ground ball.

Dirt is literally beneath us. It is up to us each one to decide if that imparts some kind of indignity for its being so lowly. As a child it was in the perfect place for me to get down and dirty. Playing in dirt was therapeutic and I wore the evidence of my therapy sessions well. My mother liked to commiserate with her friends by telling them that her devil-may-care son left home each morning dressed in clean clothes only to arrive at school a short time later besmirched with either dirt, mud or grass stains (or all of the above) obtained on the short walk to my elementary school. That made me a dedicated participant in the ways of a dirt devil.

As an adult not much has changed. Dirt is still beneath me, which means I still enjoy getting down and getting dirty. At this stage of life, though, my pursuit is one of enjoying the aroma and textures of lawn and garden, which I continue to wear well. My role play as an amateur horticulturist is a little more informed (as the name implies) than it was in my youth, leaving me with my only complaint. Getting down these days contains the difficulty of getting back up again. Otherwise dirt and I are good friends as demonstrated by how enthusiastically it still clings to me and me to it.

I do bathe and I do my own laundry. I still start my day by going outside wearing clean clothes and a passion to improve on their appearance a short time later with the ample marks left by the oh-so-good earth.

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