Good Dirt

Linda Purl

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Blue Pearl

Mid winter, in anticipation of spring, I like to plant narcissus bulbs. It’s something my Mother used to do and come April, just when the world outside would have turned to brown slush, our home would be filled with sweet fragrances. It was a reminder of life’s promise of change as well as the promise of beauty yet to come.

Over the last few years, travel has kept me from this ritual but this winter…well, you know…suffice to say that being at home meant I could once again set bulbs up and so I did. Some went into containers with dirt, others into containers with rocks. Pleased with my work, I placed them variously around the house and awaited their certain bloom. Disaster struck, however, when the baby shoots started to come up blighted and the aroma of rot permeated the rooms. Clearly I’d lost the touch and because seeing, not to mention smelling so immediately what happens when you put the potential for bloom in a toxic, wrong atmosphere I began to wonder about my own atmosphere. What dirt is my own life planted in? Is it good? Does it blight a bud? Is it conducive to growth? Do we have a choice about the dirt we grow in? Can we make our own? Okay…thanks for coming down that rabbit hole with me…that was the bottom line question…what is the dirt, the atmosphere of thought from which my life springs? Sadly not sure I have an answer but I know I’d like my dirt to have the right nutrients, ones from which I can draw sustainable growth.

Pondering what first “dirt” was or is for any of us, I guess the answer is the womb. Must’ve been nice. Everything needed at hand, other than the task of growing a body within the time allotted, no deadlines to meet. I was lucky through my childhood as well to be potted in an atmosphere that was stable, stimulating and very loving. At some point though, it was up to me, up to all of us to create the dirt. Looking back I can clearly see that I have not always done a good job at that…largely through neglect, squander, hubris but what about now, today? What is the mental atmosphere in which I chose to grow?

Dirt, I’ve just learned, has five components: Water, gas, organic matter, mineral (primary and sub) and microorganisms. Microorganisms are very cool. They host bacteria that have symbiotic nutrient exchanging relationships with plants. Not only bacteria but actinomycetes, fungi, algae, protozoa and viruses. Yuck but I’m going to take comfort in the notion that these “undesirables” (aka so called life mistakes) are essential for soil development. In fact without them, soil dies.

Close on microorganism’s heels is organic matter…all the dead stuff that gets fed back in, in order to fortify dirt. Negative and neutral chemicals therein influence soil’s ability to retain nutrients. In other words everything, successes and failures alike get fed back into the dirt as compost serving only, ultimately, to make the mixture more fertile. Phew.

I’m going to call the ingredient of gas for my dirt mixture, mental calm…as in unencumbered empty space, a stress free zone, a place from which to imagine unimpeded. One of the things calm demands is a prevalence of rational thought. Tends to dampen worries, imagined disasters, etc. In the way that deep roots help soil recycle nutrients, going deep during passages of reflection that calm allows for, must surely promote growth.
Primary minerals, I’ll translate into optimism. A pal used to counsel me to “Carry optimism around in your head like a merry tune.” Lord knows that’s easier to do some days than others but even the effort I have to think provides some of the necessary nutrients. Sub nutrients of optimism are plentiful…resilience, perseverance, hope, joy, etc. I’d take any one of those to grow a dream with. Perhaps for you as well but I feel those qualities fuel my willingness to take on new projects, to tackle creative endeavors and their necessary learning curves.

Water, I’ll give to the key element of a connection to the Greater as guide, true north, reassurance, identity. Some would call that Mother Nature, others might call that God or Spirit…whatever the belief or articulation of same, a connection to what is bigger and unhampered by our day to day challenges of life is a crucial ingredient for my dirt recipe. Water is the great conductor, the assurance of the constancy of change. It purifies, renews and reanimates. It’s flow cuts canyons, moves mountains, reshapes and fortifies. Water can carry us.

Its a pretty simple atmosphere recipe really one from which fragrant blossoms just might bloom.

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