Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Smelling Like Dirt

Recently the cafĂ© where some of my paintings are hanging hosted a “Meet the Artist” event, a lovely evening of wine and cheese; laughter, art, and fascinating company. I sold several copies of my book over the course of the night and was asked to sign one for a stunning young woman from Turkey – and thus began a conversation that has lingered in my mind for days now.

I have a long-term, passionate love affair with the written word. Meanings and nuances swirl through my mind - I think in pictures and in doing so, turn and move words about like things; examining, dissecting, diving into them. I titled my book “Season” as the three definitions of that word (a period of time delineated by weather and daylight, to harden or temper, and to add flavor) directly reflect my experience in life. The book is divided into four seasonally minded sections and each begins with several of my favorite quotes. The first includes this one:

"In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt." 
                                                                Margaret Atwood

The young lady I mentioned before is studying literature and given cultural and language challenges, inquired what it meant. While the first literal sense of the words is simply (to the gardener who lives through the dark months of winter plotting, planning, and longing for the tender blush of the first thaw) that in planting a garden, you will smell like dirt by the end of the day. However, the more we spoke, I explained that I also believe deeply that this applies to so much more than petunias and basil.

Beginnings. They are the root of us. We begin relationships and jobs and marriages. We begin parenting, new chapters, adventures, projects, penance. And with each beginning, the success of the thing, no matter what it is, I believe to be directly correlated, even possibly umbilically connected, to the effort we put into it. As was said today in a fall planting lecture I attended, “If you plant your bulbs two inches down, you are merely feeding the squirrels.” (Susie Lobdell) You need a shovel, not a trowel. Put your back into it, wear clothes you don’t mind tearing, plan on sore muscles. Exhaustion is an ingredient, not a side effect.

Do you smell of dirt? Are you putting the effort, the thought, the planning into your life to make it the one you desire? Are you weeding out the destructive elements that you know are gnawing around the foundation? Do you spend time thinking – simple reflection – about what has been successful and what has failed? Research and intention and bloody knuckles….do you smell of dirt?

The world is tucking in its edges now, curling up for a long nap beneath the hoarfrost and ice. I moved my summer plants inside this afternoon anticipating the freeze coming tonight. I’ve purchased whiskey and made soup and fetched the down comforter from the attic. I have some things in my life that need attention. Winter is good for that. May we each contemplate our lives, work at our lives, sweat and heave and celebrate our lives like the stunning gardens they are meant to be.

At the end of it all, I thoroughly intend to smell like dirt.