Friday, October 9, 2009


I've been digging a hole in my backyard. It is an experiment. A root cellar experiment. I will be sinking a rubbermaid tub full up of sand and apples, carrots, and squashes down in my deep, deep hole. I will seal it up tight and add rocks to the top to keep out unwanted critters. It may work. The hole will end up being approximately 4 X 4 X 4.

Grave like.

I love the soil. I love digging in it and pulling my hands through it. I've found quite a few bones in this area of the yard. I've also had to lacerate tree roots, and I marvel at the water that pours from their sad underground limbs--so much like blood, so full of life.

The theme of this week; maybe the theme of my whole sabbatical is soil--earth--that living body of death, decay, life and energy below us. I am reading the Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan right now and re-reading the Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry and simultaneously digging a hole in my backyard and watching my chickens shit and scratch and cultivate and create beautiful, fertile compost.

It is all too amazing for words. And still my eyes well up with tears as I read and dig and watch because, dammit, I desire something different for my life. I desire this closeness to the earth that I have been able to foster over the last few months away from my paid work.

The Worst Hard Time is about the dust bowl--the killing off of the buffalo; the massacre of the soil the destruction of the earth in the name of profit and the constructed american dream that trampled down the Comanche and other indigenous people in the name of profit for the "civilized" and the mad vengeance that befell the people who were still there when the dust came ripping. I'm not done with the text yet, but the first 90 pages are a fantastic historical account of the tragedy that human beings can create by fucking up the planet.

In the Unsettlng of America there is a great chapter called The Use of Energy. It is all about soil and agriculture and the destruction that we have waged on the planet through the god of big agribusiness and our disconnection from the land, animals, and plants.

on my mind.

I'll end with this great passage by Mr. Berry, "The Soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life."


Farmer Femme said...

What an incredible post. Thank you for that. May your hands be dirty for a long time. Please give updates through the winter on how the cellar goes. xo

Mrs. Basement said...

when i was a sophomore in college i took a women's studies class, an anthropology class and a soil science class and almost lost my shit. It was a transformative few months. also, i really admire how much you read. i've been working on the same book for 3 months now. it just seems like there's no energy or desire. finally, super congratulations on your amazing sabatical!