Good Dirt

Part 3 of A Dirt Story

Planting a garden seems easy enough, that is until you start gardening. Who ever knew just how important dirt was to a plant living or dying? Particularly, when you are trying to garden organically and trust in the Divine’s movement through creation to provide everything the sower and the seed will need to grow and produce. Talk about being desperate and dependent on the grace of God. Obviously, we could learn a lot from nature about our own design but I think we’ve been told that already from a much more reliable source than me..remember the lilies.

Still, if you have spent anytime with farmers or gardeners, then it is not long before you hear talk about “good dirt.” My dad has been a farmer all his life and through the years of sweat and tears, he has learned the difference between bad dirt and good dirt. I, on the other hand, have not acquired such knowledge. At the present moment, I have lived in the city just a few months longer than I did growing up on the farm for 18 years.

Though I did plant some things in my yard in Knoxville, gardening was not my thing. It’s not that I minded getting dirty or sweaty or working hard but I didn’t see the need because I had 10 grocery stores in in a 5 mile radius of my house. But now that I am back in the country and taking baby steps at yard farming, I am daily confronted by my 20 years of dirt indifference. Even worse than my lack of interest in the condition of soil, I find myself lying face down in my own hubris when I think about a career in health and wellness in which I never thought about dirts connection to my health, my neighbor’s health, my community’s health and the health of all creatures. But as I have made the smallest effort to grow life in the dirt, I am realizing (more than ever) the importance of dirt and how lucky I am to have my dad and his knowledge on where to get good dirt.

Last spring, I needed some good dirt for my new raised beds and so I called my dad. It didn’t take long before he was on his tractor and in my back yard with some good Dellrose dirt. I grabbed my shovel thinking nothing about unloading dirt out of a front end bucket but that changed quickly. I guess being freshly back on the farm, I was not only ignorant but unaware of my ignorance on the weight, power and unpredictability of a load of good dirt. In what seemed like a spilt second the dirt broke loose and I was standing too close and it nearly broke my leg. My injury has not only taken almost a year to heal, but it has left the biggest scar on my body, which is quite impressive considering I have had 3 c-sections, 2 knee surgeries, 2 thyroid surgeries, hernia repair and a dog bite to the face. My brother and I have wager on the big bump on my foot that still lingers from my dirt injury. He doesn’t think it will go away but I do.

One thing is for certain, dirt is a foundational substance and anything that God creates to be a foundation demands reverence and respect. I think two of the biggest mistakes that we make as human beings are never considering the dirt and never considering that we are dirt. Whether by omission or commission, we do not create the space for the pondering of dirt, be that the dirt on which we live or the dirt in which God has breathed in to give us life. And so, we find ourselves in a world that does not pay much reverence or respect to holy ground and our own holy temples.

Yet, the truth is that you cannot do one without the other. You cannot have good dirt and an epidemic of diet-related disease and sickness in 88% of Americans. Likewise, you cannot have a good soul and be indifferent to creation’s foundation. Whether we realize it or not, soil is completely interconnected, interdependent and interrelated to soul. Eating, growing, working, planting, harvesting, shopping and living are not just agricultural acts, they are spiritual acts. In fact, everything we do are visible manifestations of the present condition of our relationship with the Creator of all things.

Perhaps, this contradiction between heaven and earth was what finally brought me to the end of myself. It seems like if you have a big mouth, are a know-it-all, and you are speaking for God while living as consumer and worshipping the same golden calf as the culture (the consumer lifestyle) then it’s just a matter of time before your hubris and The Truth collide. In the south, we call this a come to Jesus moment.

I call this a Eustace moment. (See Narnia, Eustace and the dragon-The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – Chapter 7). This is the moment when you’re not so much undressed but skinned. Yes, it’s painful, humiliating and humbling, and it is also unbelievably amazing. It is what the Bible talks about being naked and unashamed. I think it’s the moment that your false-self is finally torn off and you emerge as your true-self. It is here that you tenderly look at yourself and you remember that you are dirt and you have been shaped and formed by God, and he has breathed life into you. Even more than that, you remember that you are loved by the Divine, regardless of how dirty you have been and still remain.

For me, this was the moment that I recognized just how holy and human I was, and I felt the presence of God running through me transforming the ashes, the dragon scales and a large amount of pure shi..manure into not just good dirt but a holy temple.

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