On my knees, churning soil like a human rototiller, I grab at weed roots and aerate the compacted earth around fledgling plants. Some plants have not fledged. I’m patient with dirt, and wait for it to reveal a hopeful germination. I know when to give up, thus I press more seed into the barren spots.
Writing is a lot like gardening. Words are dirt into which we plant stories, books and dreams.
Most days, I’m comforted by the dirt, believing it will yield, believing I have half a clue about what I’m doing. Other days, those barren spots worry me. Did I plant too deep? Too shallow? Was my seed too old? I begin to doubt my efforts matter.
Topics can be like barren doubt. I’ve mentally churned the idea of writing something in relation to what happened, again, on American soil — the meaningless massacre of a hate crime in Charleston, South Carolina. Do I have words that will grow something fruitful? Will I write too deep? Too shallow?
I don’t know what to write. I’m the dirt farmer devastated by hail, by grasshoppers, by drought. I don’t even look into my neighbor’s eye because I know he’s experienced the same thing. I glare at my other neighbor in the big house because she has no idea what it is to put hope into dirt. And this is dangerous ground. It touches upon shame and envy, it breeds a blight of hate.
The singer Jewel asks in a song, “And who will save your soul if you won’t save your own?”
Best to kneel back down in the dirt, take compassion on both neighbors — the one who struggles, and the one who doesn’t — and plant again. Hope again. Feel. Joys and sorrows. It doesn’t matter if your dirt patch is small or if others even notice what you are doing. Do it because it’s yours. Plant your stories.
Charleston? All I can do is to promise you that I will not sow hate. I can promise you that I will help each person I meet best that I can. I promise to do what is right, what is just even if sometimes I’m confused by the results or how to go about it. I will put my gaze on the good, the sprouts, the beauty that grows from tenaciously churning my dirt, pulling weeds and nourishing emerging plants. I will write words that may not matter to pop culture or mass media, but express beauty nonetheless. I’ll rise up toward the light like a plant newborn from the soil.
I’m too far away to touch you in Charleston. But I can give a stranger a ride to town. I can share potatoes with my neighbors, big and small. One interaction at a time, I can be an agent of love and compassion. May my world one day spread toward yours, and hers, and his, and may each single effort add up to a worthier place to live.
Dig in the dirt writers! Be gardeners of your own stories and tillers of your truth. Write deep. Write shallow. Know that you matter; your stories matter. Every life matters.
June 24, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about dirt. You can go with the idea of digging into the dirt as an analogy, or you can be realistic. Maybe a character has “the dirt” on someone or another has “dirty laundry” to hide. Dirt can be rich soil or barren. Get dirty, but not shockingly dirty!
And the photo? I dug in the garden today, weeding and mounding potato hills, thinning red onions, evidently for the benefit of my largest garden pest, Bobo, who slept soundly upon the warm dirt.
Respond by June 30, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
The Late Exchange by Charli Mills
Belle searched for signs of rising dirt that announced travelers across the barren basin. By now she could discern hand carts from wagons. She hoped to see indication of the overdue Pony Express rider. Sul would soon go searching, leaving Belle alone.
“I’ll give you the rifle. Point and pull the trigger.”
“Ah, Sweetheart, ain’t nobody getting’ in through these rock walls.”
Then, billowing dirt on the horizon.
When the rider arrived to exchange horses, he grinned. “Injuns!” He tossed Belle a calico sack full of pine nuts. “For you, Ma’am. Seems they like your chokecherry pie.”