I had a general unsettled feeling last week. Initially I couldn’t put my finger on its cause until I realized, since my yellow-lab Ben had been sick, a few days had passed without us touching the earth. We had gone for brief leash walks on concrete sidewalks, but actually feeling the ground under our feet had not happened for days. Knowing that the cure for my general funk was not far away was a relief.
There is a magnificent 17-acre wood, one side bordering on a river, with 100-year-old plus trees that would minister to my need. Just the sound of my footsteps on the broad wooden plank bridge crossing the river began to elevate my mood as I watched multiple goose families, with their young, trolling on the water’s current. But the real elixir came when entering under the high-canopied trees and feeling the well-worn earthen path under my feet. Sparsely spattered dapples of bright sunlight provided dramatic contrast to the deeply shaded forest floor. A few of the biggest trees were laid down and were on their way to return to the soil. It was the end of my malaise.
The fact is soil supports all life, including us. There was a nutritionist on UWM public radio recently who said, “We are literally made of dirt.” The elements found in soil are the same elements in us. And she suggested we not treat sick plants, but rather treat the soil in which they grow. What if the same is true for us? And I remembered a statement from my former Teacher Naturalist training materials at Riveredge Nature Center, “Almost everything on earth can be called by another name—‘temporarily not soil’.” A hundred years ago that would have been an easier concept to grasp for the world was not so full of so much permanent looking stuff that we created--from what? The earth.