This is a re-post from a few years ago. I was reminded of this piece when I walked outside on an unexpectedly warm February day in Virginia and smelled the air. Nothing gives me a shot of happiness like the smell of spring, more specifically, the smell of good old earth in spring.
I’m going to be dirty today.
As a kid, Mama often met me on the back stoop as I came in from playing outside. With a broom in her hand she’d have me slowly turn in a circle as she brushed dirt from my blue jeans. She wasn’t against sweeping my bare legs either if I happened to be wearing shorts.
“Don’t bring that mess in this house.” She’d say. “Did you plan to get dirty?”
Well no. I hadn’t planned to. I was a kid. There was dirt. We met and fell in love. The end.
I remembered that this morning as I thought about where to plant some things in the yard. I still love dirt. Not perlite and potting soil in plastic bags. I love real dirt. Earth.
One of the finest smells of spring is that first whiff of good clean soil. Sealed in by frigid winter, spring unlocks the scents I noticed as a kid. Dirt in our garden had a plain chalky smell, dirt in the yard had a more sour smell, and digging in the woods provided pungent aromas too delightful to describe.
Dirt smells good.
Dirt feels good too.
Powdery dirt in the garden stuck to our sweat when we worked the long rows and red clay in the yard felt almost oily as it clung to our fingers and hands. Different soils in the woods provided a variety of textures from mushy sludge along the creek to a sandy light mix up on the hill.
As a kid who spent almost every day outside, I knew my dirt. Mama ended up sweeping off quite a bit from my pants before allowing me into the house. But it wasn’t mere dirt she swept, it was ground-in goodness and muddy proof of the fun I’d had. I didn’t plan to get dirty, it was just good luck.
Excited to get into the yard this morning I remembered the happiness that digging, feeling, and smelling good old dirt can bring about. Coming home with blue jeans caked in mud for Mama’s broom was never my goal. I’d had great fun and muddy jeans were a byproduct of my good time. I never planned to get dirty.
Today I’ll put on blue jeans and dig in the yard to plant a few more things. Along the way I’ll wipe my hands on my pants, feel gritty soil stick to my skin, and marvel at how sweet the earth can smell when you stir it up a little.
Today I plan to get dirty.
Stuart M. Perkins