Dirt: 1. loose earth or soil
2. a substance (such as mud or dust) that makes things unclean
I relish the smell of the earth in the early spring, when the freeze looses its grip, when the ground is finally soggy again; absorbing the moisture that has rested on its surface, frozen for so many months.
The fresh smell of the earth emerging after such a long absence is something new to me. I was raised in a place that was often moist from rainfall and not often frozen, with smells of the lands and its growth always in the air -- a landscape always awake. But that is not the case here. After five years in a rural community in the upper Midwest I have come to think of the landscape as in hibernation for the winter months. The land becomes a monochromatic tan, often covered with snow and illuminated by a grey-white sky; the trees barren, the shrubs barren, undergrowth and overgrowth, barren.
It did not occur to me until after the final thaw that here the earth has no smell in winter. It did not occur to me until I smelled something again. Until I smelled dirt. The dirt, oh the dirt; for the soil to be usable again, for it to be lush and alive with potential, cradling growth.
I love dirt, even when it is out of place; when it is tracked across my floor and under my finger nails. Both are an indication of activity, both represent life beyond the walls. Dirt is one of those unattractive things that is beautiful in its function. Its beauty is its potential, in what emerges from it. The whole of the natural world relies on its foundation and nutrients. Our souls rely on the beauty that grows from it for nourishment; our bones rely on what grows from it for nourishment. Our world springs forth from dirt and regenerates into it.
And yet it also makes things dirty. To love it you have to love its mess and forgive its mess. There is no beauty without mess, the raw mess of dirty hands and what they will create, where they have been and what they have tried to do. There is no beauty without dirty feet, the piles and remnants they have walked through to reach a cleaner place. This is the potential of the mess, the beauty of the dirt; that which will grow from it.