Dirty Fingers

One of my plans for Christmas holidays was to replace the plants in my office. They have served me well for a number of years but have grown weary. So yesterday my wife and I went plant shopping. We pulled into Sheridan Nurseries on Ottawa Street in Kitchener. It is really rather magical place to visit at this time of year. The air is moist and warm, calling to mind summer’s luxuries. A display of orchids welcomed us in and invited us into a different space, a different time in the midst of January, with its own peculiar pleasures and pains. Some song birds flitted about. Water features babbled. Shoppers entered a kind of dream state in this womb like locus, this place called “nursery.“

We wandered around a bit, finally settling on a couple of smaller clusters of Codiaeum plants (what a delightful string of vowels in that name!) along with a coupler of smaller plants (a cactus and small rubber tree like plant with yellow speckles – alas I don’t know the name). I happily paid a modest fee for joys both experienced and anticipated. We chose a good day for plant buying with a break in the weather after the week’s record lows in Southern Ontario. Yesterday the temperature hovered a bit below freezing – much warmer than the day before – but still, I sensed that these tropical transplants shivered a bit in the car as we made our way home.

My wife and I worked to pull together the two batches of the Codiaeum plants into one pot. This was really rather marvelous. Digging in dirt in January is an unusual luxury. We bought some potting soil, which simply smelled like the life that it is. It is not accidental, in my estimation, that the ancient Hebrew word for the human is Adam, which can also be translated as earth, or soil. As I gently pressed the soil to work in the newly potted planter, I couldn’t help but feel as if I had a fundamental source of life in my hands; outrageously complex, and yet sublime in its utter lack of pretension. The moniker “down to earth” is well suited for the character the phrase plays! While playing with the soil, my mind went to the Bible.

The creation story in Genesis Two has the Lord forming a body of dirt, and then breathing spirit into this shape formed from what has been called lifeless dirt. But soil is anything but lifeless. Indeed, Adam/soil is potent with life. As I read these ancient words, I imagine the Holy One bending down and putting mouth to dirt as new life is born. My lips didn’t touch this soil that hosts my newly acquired plants, but my fingers are still tingling with the experience. I sometimes wonder if something of God’s vitality landed in the soil itself, as well as the soil made human.

Next time you have occasion to get your fingers dirty, don’t pass up the opportunity. And as you indulge a little dirt, see if you sense something more – that Excess that leaves traces for those with eyes to see, with ears to hear, and with fingers to caress life itself.

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10 thoughts on “Dirty Fingers

  1. What a wonderfully evocative posting! Thank you for this trip to spring and reminder of the smells and touch of earth.

  2. Marie Taylor says:

    Several creation myths have God creating man from earth. Perhaps that’s why we call it Mother Earth, the great womb. Wonderful post. I think I’ll go plant shopping tomorrow.

    • agjorgenson says:

      I love the image of mother earth. If we were able to think of the earth as our mother, perhaps we would treat her differently! Hope you had a chance to get your fingers dirty today…

  3. jannatwrites says:

    I’m glad you got to do some planting. I had to laugh at this, “Yesterday the temperature hovered a bit below freezing – much warmer than the day before…” Still sounds cold to me!

    Historically, I’ve not been much of a gardener, but over the last couple of years I’ve tried my hand a bit, and even I recognize the unique feeling that comes from planting and watching the sprouts grow. (Of course, until I figure out an alternative, I won’t be planting anymore because the elk and rabbits are well-fed 🙂

    • agjorgenson says:

      Well, we are back in the deep freeze today, so I am glad I got my plant business done on the weekend. I’m also not a gardener, but have grown to appreciate that ancient skill more and more,

  4. shoreacres says:

    It’s truly amazing that we’re experiencing the same temperatures. You mentioned being just below freezing – tonight, we’ll likely be around 22-24F. This morning, the birds’ water dishes were frozen solid. I thawed them out and replaced the water, and in a half hour it was frozen again.

    As a result of all this, my plants have come to live inside, all except two cacti too large to move. They’re huddled under freeze cloth with two light bulbs providing extra heat. My fingers are crossed.

    But, when it warms up and it’s time for the plants to go back outdoors, I’ll be repotting myself, and dividing those big ones so they’re more manageable. It really is so simple. Soil, water and sunlight – and then growth. It’s a miracle, really, and always makes me ponder. What might be the human equivalents – the soil, water and sunlight – we need in order for growth to occur?

    • agjorgenson says:

      It seems there is harsh weather the continent over these days. So, how about we add “adversity” to soil, water and sunlight? I know that sometimes it takes a bit of a drought to incite plants to flower. This morning our thermometer hit minus 25, with a 40 km/hr wind. Very cold for our part of Ontario, but it is odd how a kind of communal coming together happens in harsh times. i will never ever wish for troubles for myself or others, but I have to admit that sometimes a forest fire is needed to pop the cones of lodge pole pines. Maybe a little fire would do me some good… especially given the temperature outside!

  5. I cannot believe I never gave thought to the meaningfulness of our having come from the soil, the living earth. I, lay preacher of holistic wellness. Just beautiful. Wonderful descriptions.

    • agjorgenson says:

      well, I am glad to give you some fodder for a sermon some day! I grew up on a farm, so that likely gives me a particular orientation that might not be shared by all.

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