dirty is good

At least that’s what a new research report says, according to here:

Victims of depression could benefit from a down-to-earth approach … getting dirty.

Apparently the ‘friendly’ bacteria in soil can be as uplifting as anti-depressant drugs. Mice treated with the bacteria appeared more relaxed. It stimulated the immune system and activated brain neurons producing the mood-enhancing chemical seratonin, a study has shown.

One expert said research involving mycobacterium vaccae ‘leaves us wondering if we shouldn’t all spend more time playing in the dirt’.

No wonder kids love playing in the dirt. No wonder I love to mix potting soil and plant seeds.
This time of year you can start to smell the dirt. Spring mudluscious dirt.
This poem, by Marge Piercy

The Common Living Dirt
Marge Piercy

The small ears prick on the bushes,
furry buds, shoots tender and pale.
The swamp maples blow scarlet.
Color teases the corner of the eye,
delicate gold, chartreuse, crimson,
mauve speckled, just dashed on.

The soil stretches naked. All winter
hidden under the down comforter of snow,
delicious now, rich in the hand
as chocolate cake: the fragrant busy
soil the worm passes through her gut
and the beetle swims in like a lake.

As I kneel to put the seeds in,
careful as stitching, I am in love.
You are the bed we all sleep on.
You are the food we eat, the food
we are, the food we will become.
We are walking trees rooted in you.

You can live thousands of years
undressing in the spring your black
body, your red body, your brown body
penetrated by the rain. Here
is the goddess unveiled,
the earth opening her strong thighs.

Yet you grow exhausted with bearing
too much, too soon, too often, just
as a woman wears through like an old rug.
We have contempt for what we spring
from. Dirt, we say, you’re dirt
as if we were not all your children.

We have lost the simplest gratitude.
We lack the knowledge we sowed ten
thousand years past, that you live
a goddess but mortal, that what we take
must be returned; that the poison we drop
in you will stunt our children’s growth.

Tending a plot of your flesh binds
me as nothing ever could to the seasons,
to the will of the plants, clamorous
in their green tenderness. What
calls louder than the cry of a field
of corn ready, or trees of ripe peaches?

I worship on my knees, laying
the seeds in you, that worship rooted
in need, in hunger, in kinship,
flesh of the planet with my own flesh,
a ritual of compost, a litany of manure.
My garden’s a chapel, but a meadow

gone wild in grass and flower
is a cathedral. How you seethe
with little quick ones, vole, field
mouse, shrew and mole in their thousands,
rabbit and woodchuck. In you rest
the jewels of the genes wrapped in seed.

Power warps because it involves joy
in domination; also because it means
forgetting how we too starve, break,
like a corn stalk in the wind, how we
die like the spinach of drought,
how what slays the vole slays us.

Because you can die of overwork, because
you can die of the fire that melts
rock, because you can die of the poison
that kills the beetle and the slug,
we must come again to worship you
on our knees, the common living dirt.

2 thoughts on “dirty is good

  1. What a great post, Elaine–I love this poem.

    Hope your springtime is full of the same great earthy smells that my garden is starting (finally) to produce!

    xxx Betsy

  2. p.s. I blogged about this great post of yours, but my WP blog doesn’t seem to give Trackback in a way that your blog appreciates.

Comments are closed.