Rendered Fat Content


Jean-François Millet: Garden Scene (1854)
"Today seems like the day to finally get up and Dirty."

During exile, the dirt I encountered amplified my sense of displacement. My home valley was blessed with remarkable soil, Loess, the likes of which only a small handful of places in this world enjoy. Deposited here by wind over millennia, it features few rocks and little organic matter. I can pull a long-tailed button weed free from it with its foot-long delicate root intact. Water slips right through it. Improved with peat or compost, it becomes perfectly friable, an extremely fine planting medium. Elsewhere, I encountered what seemed like imposters of soil, clays and hardpan scrabbles, gumbos and shallow gravels, all exhausting, unrewarding stuff with which to even attempt to work. SettlingInto seems to insist that I sink to my knees and get Dirty for a change. In the Rockies' Foothills, I came to dread working what passed for soil. In the DC suburbs, I mixed crushed leaves with the clay to create something workable, after bending my turning fork just turning over dirt more suitable for pottery than planting. I longed for better every Spring.

Now the opportunity presents itself in spades.
Yesterday, we took a break from unpacking to visit garden centers and came home with an option on a half dozen really fine lilacs, a small fig tree, and, wonder of wonders, a witch hazel shrub. We marked off tight but proper distances between proposed planting holes while I calculated just how much digging I'd just bought into. The backyard desperately needs more shadow casters. It became an expanse of grass in our absence, an improvement over the weed patch our first renters had left behind them, but an uninteresting aspect to gaze into from the back deck space. The Muse had mail ordered a climbing rose which also wants planting, so my shovels and my knees look to get dirty this weekend. I found my gardening tools within the remaining jumble of boxes. My gardening shoes cannot be far behind them.

My sense of place seems to come from the quality of Dirty it promises. I've touched every inch of flower bed space on this property at least a dozen times, yet my desire to dig in it has just grown stronger. I will soon recover my long-idle composter and commence to start breaking down kitchen and yard waste again. It's a long cycle, requiring years of focused effort, to create the balance required, where the soil comes to feed itself and I serve as its master. No shorter term enterprise can achieve this equilibrium and without it, it offers little promise. It's a lot of work and a genuine challenge after long years of mourning and dread to face the responsibilities of actually being in charge of my own soil's tilth again. I feel poised on the edge of living.

The purpose might be to induce that exquisite exhaustion that only comes from getting Dirty. I can mentally exhaust myself in my sleep and emotionally drain myself with idle dreading, but only dedicated digging produces the sort of tired really worth anything. I'm waiting for the sunrise, filling myself with perhaps unfulfillable promises, boasting of a prowess I'm uncertain if I still possess. It's been years since I've rooted out an unwanted stump. My muscle memory seems hazy on the details, but I'm game. Getting Dirty will at least prevent me from focusing upon unpacking boxes, which lost its appeal almost before I started. Still, the promise of finally requiting my unforgivable absence feels daunting. It's already April and the soil taunts me. Today seems like the day to finally get up and Dirty.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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