Deep inside me there’s a seed that puts forth roots and stretches to the sky when the world begins turning from winter’s spell. It makes me want to plunge my hands in the red dirt and crumble clods between my fingers. I want to pull up grass or weeds to give flowers and vegetables the space to put down roots and to stretch skyward.
I have often lacked land in which to put down roots of plants and flowers. Instead, I would content myself with clod-free soil brought home sealed in a plastic bag. Something odd about that, dirt bought and paid for, carried around in plastic. Yet, when living in a world of apartments and concrete, bags of dirt allowed me to plant tomatoes and daisies and jalapenos and petunias. I frequently lost tomatoes and jalapenos to squirrels (and I hope the jalapenos burned holes in their stomachs).
Red clay runs in my blood, courtesy of being raised on a north Texas farm where my parents raised food to nourish growing bodies and beauty to nourish growing souls.
Every spring my dad would plant a large garden filled with onions, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, corn, peas and zinnias (his favorite flower). Plus the one vegetable I loathe – green beans. Mom would fill beds and planters with flowers all around our house.
While we contributed by weeding, shucking corn and shelling peas, I can think of one instance that fueled my love of playing in the dirt. As a child, an old tin washtub filled with dirt and moss roses sat on the edge of the front yard before it bled into the driveway. Mom said they had never bloomed. In the tub, the roses vied with weeds for sun and moisture. One day, I knelt before it and decided to tidy it up. I pulled weeds and grass, returning day after day until it was clear. I crumbled clotted dirt between my fingers. I sprayed water on the plants under the hot Texas sun.
Buds appeared. The blooms burst forth in pink, white and red — beauty from forgotten soil.
Every spring, I try for the same miracle, yellow daffodils to lift sunshine faces to sunshine sky. Tulips, irises, petunias, begonias and more to join the flower chorus along with the earthy tenor from tomatoes, basil, jalapenos and rosemary. As the seed in me pushes tendrils to the surface, I kneel to conduct the earth.