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"Dirt lies in that thin layer between bedrock and sky where, on my knees, all things seem possible."

I figure anything really worth doing deserves my attentive procrastination. I'd dedicated nearly two full weeks to circling this effort, maybe closing in on starting, maybe deferring imagined agony. I kneel before the space as if performing some ritual, and perhaps I am performing a ritual, one I've repeated many times before, each instance different enough to carry great uncertainty. The sod needs removing. I don't know for sure what lies beneath it, though I imagine bedrock. Once I scratch this surface, I've committed myself to follow through whatever I might uncover there.

I fill a five gallon paint bucket with rocks for every yard I cultivate. The dirt itself seems fine, surprisingly so, featuring earthworms and decent soil. I'm surprised, maybe delighted. My muscles remember the routine.
Score slices with my long-headed spade. Nudge up the sod with my hand plow. Flip the sod and work out the rocks with the plow's rounded edge. Set the sod aside, gather up the resulting rocks, and work smooth the remaining soil. Then on to the next hunk of sod. I work in close relief to the soil, kneeling near enough that no stooping's required. I move fluidly, almost effortlessly; the work self-reinforcing, egging me on and into. I uncover a section of drip irrigation line without puncturing it. By the time I've finished, probably some weeks from now, I will have rediscovered the entire system.

The Muse wonders what I'll plant there and I have no idea yet, though I have several ideas. This dirt has not finished speaking to me. I do not yet understand its capability. It has been forced to carry unsuitable sod and were it not for the protruding rocks, a fresh crop each Spring, I would leave the sod alone. This ground's too uneven to mow, too hard to water, too vulnerable to marauding deer to sustain anything other than native plants. I intend to turn it back into a meadow though it might have been domesticated too long to ever remember how to be wild again. My meadow will echo a modified sort of authenticity, a gentrified little wilderness with buffalo grasses and wild lupine, if they will consent to grow here.

The Dirt will tell me what I need to do. The guide book for digging in the Rocky Mountains advises that it's best to consider everything deeper than six inches to be bedrock. Sure enough, six inches down the occasional rocks become a nearly solid barrier which could be excavated, but why bother? Six inches of dirt, even gravelly dirt, seems adequate to satisfy whatever I might decide to plant here. I had been worried that I might find an inch or less of dirt under there, so six inches seems an extravagant excess. I will add leftover potting soil, tired after two years in pots on the deck, a perfect refreshment for this dirt.

I want this chore to last the entire season so that each morning it might provide a decent reason for me to get up and out, kneeling in the dirt. I need to finish this chore before the growing season's too far gone for my meadow to establish itself before the snow falls. This plot lies beneath a snowbank from first snow until at least the first of May, and every day it lies exposed delays its becoming. Part of my procrastination considered how I might hire someone with a rototiller to come and break up the ground, a clear denial of the call. I came to realize that if I don't break this ground, on my knees, filling a five gallon bucket with rocks for every yard of progress, this ground would never belong to me, or, indeed, to anyone. It has suffered from too many absentee landlords, from title and lease-holders aspiring to leverage ownership without taking possession of anything, any place. A place needs possession, too.

Possession works both ways if I let it. I can own the ground without opening myself enough to allow it to possess me back, though this seems a stingy way to live. The land, the dirt, has no say in who owns it. It seems agreeable enough to possessing anyone willing to kneel before it, even after extended procrastination. Dirt lies in that thin layer between bedrock and sky where, on my knees, all things seem possible.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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