The soil has plenty of magnetic pull, I’ve been noticing as my years progress. It’s been pulling me more closely to it by the day.
There are the obvious and medical reasons for that happening, of course. During much earlier days I studied how we all physically shrink a little each day after having stood our tallest and most upright. Life’s wear and tear on muscles and joints give us that truth.
It also would be easy for some of us to joke about the earth’s magnetic pull increasingly having its way with metal screws and joints we’ve had planted into our bodies to hold us together over the years. But here, I’m talking about the sort of magnetic pull that eludes our comprehension – that sort of pull that reaches out of the soil and grabs us by our very hearts, souls and spirits to tug us back into the loam.
It’s as though the soil is telling us to get home, where we belong.
Those of us reared on the rural countryside’s soil know how we rose from that loam, figuratively and literally. In the earliest of our years, we spend time digging into Mother Earth around our farmyards to replicate what our parents and perhaps older siblings do with machinery out in the fields; digging foxholes to fight imaginary military foes; using sticks to draw pictures into the dirt.
We make mud pies that we sometimes eat by chance or by design to nourish our curiosities.
As children, we unwittingly give in to the soil and allow it to manage us.
And then, as we grow, all of us work to flip that management picture, us trying to show how we know so well what’s best for that soil. We mold the loam and all beneath to fit our conveniences and needs; we add and remove nutrients natural and synthetic; we take all the soil’s layers from where nature placed them in the name of resources for our wants.
We grow crops that we eat only by design to nourish our bodies.
As adults, we wittingly take from the soil and demand that we manage it.
And then, as we get older, we find that the soil always will know best. We pause to smell its mustiness; we reach to touch it for no reason; we find excuses to work in our gardens to be nearer to it. We take time to reflect about the beauty that it is, instead of the beauty in what it could be; we cherish how it holds plants’ roots and our roots. We long to protect it.
We grow appreciation that we eat by chance or by design to nourish our spirits.
As older adults, we unwittingly give in to the soil and allow it to manage us.
I suppose there’s a great likelihood that many folks don’t notice the time when the soil starts calling us to return. But I’ve felt the pull as my summer days shorten and my physical being starts teetering – or already has tipped — toward its autumn.
Of late, the time I spend in our gardens seems more precious than ever. There, the soil seeps under my fingernails and into my hands like a medicine show’s greatest life-giving ointment.
I’ve had the urge to sit child-like out among the tall grasses to regain a bit of the summer innocence that’s been given and taken by life’s daily grind.
I’ve given in to the soil pulling me onto the lawn’s grass in the shade beneath our old catalpa trees, the loam allowing me to alternate between a novel’s words and gazing up at wispy clouds brushed against the azure above.
And oh, how I gaze across the ridges and coulees in wonder at the goodness the glaciers left touched across this northern Driftless Area.
Those of us who allow ourselves to feel the soil drawing us back into it know the contentment, fear and joy it triggers – the acknowledgment of life and mortality all rolled into one emotion. So often during our extended years we’ve heard, after all, “All are from the dust, and to dust all return.”
I’m in no particular hurry to get fully back to the dust, me rather enjoying the way things are going on this side of the sod. But I’d be a fool to not acknowledge realizing that the soil wants us more than some folks would like to admit.
In the meantime I’ll continue to enjoy the life we’ve been building out here on Eimon Ridge, giving an occasional nod to the soil’s magnetic pull.
And a strong pull, it is.
— Scott Schultz