Focusing on our connections to the dirt

Published 12:40 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2019

By David Kidwell

From a Blue-Collar Gentleman

The dirt in my fingernails is black. Earlier this week I had to “blow-off” my computer-keyboard because of the black dirt my hands left behind. I’m very proud of my black dirt; because I am a gardener. I love my wife, I love my kids; I love my grandson; and I love my garden. I was raised with gardens and around people who took pride in their gardens.

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The neighborhood of my youth was in South Louavul (Louisville); the neighborhood was composed of folks that recently moved from the farms or the mountains of our beautiful state. They were blue-collar people who were honest, tough and worked hard for a living; and most families had a member or two that was responsible for the garden. People grew what they could grow; and everybody grew tomatoes. It was the same here, I know.

Just like my land here in Cumberland, the dirt in the neighborhood of my youth was exceptional; the dirt was black, silky and black and full of night-crawlers. The neighborhood was situated between the only “hills” in South Louavul, Iroquois Park, and the mighty Ohio River.

So we lived in a bottom; and all that Ohio River “silt” had deposited over all of that land thousands of years before. An old country-bumpkin, from the neighborhood of my youth, once told me, ”It don’t take no green-thumb to experience God’s blessings from dirt like this, all you gotta do is plant the seeds.”

When I moved here nearly 30 years ago, I went searching for gardeners. I found many; and I found some of the finest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. It is simply true that some of the most beautiful and bountiful gardens are located in the crags and crevices of our mountains. Additionally, the wealth of knowledge the elderly gardeners within our communities possess should be respected and hopefully “captured.” I love the dirt and I love people who love the dirt. There exists a natural and primitive connection between some of us and the dirt; and one of my happiest dreams is an homage to that relationship.

I’m not one to share my dreams…(those strange film-shorts that play in our brains while we sleep)…but I had one dream that only a gardener could appreciate. It tickled me so intensely that I told my wife about it immediately. And because I already shared it with my sweetheart, I feel comfortable sharing it now with other gardeners.

I dreamed I was some form of forest-creature. I was a partially rotted crooked moss-covered old Locust tree; but I was mobile, had legs and arms and hands. I don’t remember if I had a head; but I knew it was “me.” I could feel the weight of the wet musky moss hanging on my shoulders. I was aware of my odor….I could sense the strong scent of a sodden half-rotted log on a misty wet hill-side in the middle of a blanket of rain-drenched ferns. I was a happy creation; I felt natural and completely secure in my surroundings……….but a strange sensation forced me to look down at my feet.

My feet were covered with weeds. Weeds, young dandelions and hog-weeds and even small ramps were growing right out of the top of my feet. So I sat down on a big rock and began to gently remove the pesky plants from my “flesh.” Only a gardener understands the satisfaction of pulling on a young weed and having every little root and divergent fiber emerge from the soil; you know, when you get it all. That is exactly what happened in my dream.

However, the roots of the plants, every tiny fibrous web of roots had grown between and encircled and embedded themselves within the spaces between my toes. They were easy to remove, but I could feel every single young root and tender fiber as it broke away from the dirt and moss and eventually the substance that were my feet. In my dream, that event lasted 20 minutes; and I smiled, with great pleasure, through the entire ordeal. It was exhilarating; I felt each little sensation completely; I woke myself up smiling. Even now, as I think about it I wish again to experience that dream; I thought other dirt-lovers would like it.

It is rare that a man could share one of his most cherished dreams with the public; but I love my garden and I love my dirt; and I know that others share my passion. Noteworthy, in these days of increasing global temperatures, people that reside near coastal waters have need for concern. Not us; gardeners in southeast Kentucky will reap the benefits. We’ll have longer growing seasons; will be able to till our land much earlier; and our peach blossoms may no longer be in danger of freezing every year. Dirt-lovers always look on the bright side of everything.