Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Smell of Earth

This is a repost from the early days of the blog -- and it's exactly what I hope to be doing today if it doesn't rain...

On a day like today -- sunny and balmy -- it's easy to believe that Spring is almost here and hard to resist getting a bit of dirt under my fingernails. Realistically speaking, the ground is too wet to do much (I'm not complaining, not after last summer's drought) and we will surely have more freezing temperatures, not to mention snow, but still . . .

So I make a modest beginning -- cutting back the dead crysanthmum and snapdragon tops and winkling out the chickweed creeping through the beds nearest to our entryway. The smell of the damp earth and rotting leaves is the smell of life -- I could imagine being revived from a coma by this smell.

I think of the lovely scene in Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, where Mary and Colin discover that, beneath the weeds and neglect, the garden is still alive.
And beneath the weeds and neglect and dead leaves of my garden, the daffodils are thrusting up, turning my English major's memory to the poem by Dylan Thomas that begins:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.

Thomas saw Time and Nature as inevitabilities -- the endless cycle of birth and death and rebirth. The rebirth part is very much with us at this time of year -- cut off the brittle stems of last Fall's yellow crysanthemums and there, curled tight at the base of the dry dead branches, are new gray-green leaves, waiting to unfurl; pull out a clump of chickweed and find, below the surface, the dry brown bulbs buried in the autumn are stirring, pushing pale yellow shoots toward the light.

It's a nice way to spend a Sunday -- digging in the flower beds, thinking about resurrection, and intoxicating myself with the smell of earth.
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Sam Hoffer @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

I've watched your temperatures and know you've had some very nice days. Great idea to get outside and dig in the dirt. I believe spring is finally on the way. Although the Indians in our area say never plant tomatoes before May 15 because it might frost.

Mary Anne Rudolph said...

I dug in the dirt one day last week, trying to yank out the bee balm that threatens to take over the earth. I now have poison ivy on my hands. Self inflicted, of course, since I hate wearing gloves. Oh well, it was worth it. The still damp soil made pulling bee balm roots fairly easy and these plants do have a lovely fragrance. I just don't want them in such numbers. So last week I snow shoed and worked in the garden. Ain't life grand!

Lise said...

We haven't begun any digging yet, we're still hauling logs for chopping and burning. Every dry and sunny day has some time devoted to that. Like the intoxicating smell of the earth, there is something special about freshly sawn wood.

Inger said...

It's a wonderful way to spend a Sunday. I'm glad it is warm enough to do it where you live.

Jim Egerton said...

The earth is one big compost pile. Things growing aging rotting and starting all over again. Net result is we got oil under a good portion of the earth. Maybe Dylan was talking about oil when he talked about blasting the trees.

Vicki Lane said...

I managed to do a little tidying away of dead flower stalks from the sedums and trimmed back some lemon balm and liriope -- the ground was too wet for digging -- and it made weed pulling difficult too. But it was nice to be making a tiny start.