“The poetry of the earth is never dead.” ~ John Keats
Hello babies. Welcome to Words. What is it about digging in the dirt that is both symbolic of life–planting, harvesting, farming–and of death–burials, composting, ashes to ashes, dust to dust? It’s the complete cycle of life, isn’t it?, and it’s all going down around us on this Pale Blue Dot that we call home. We’re here for only a nano-second in the big universe of things, but while we’re here let us be kind. Let us create and grow and leave something beautiful that wasn’t here before. Let us dig in the dirt–even with our squat pen resting between our fingers and our thumbs–and let us rejoice in being alive.
Visit us next weekend when Jennie and I tackle the ‘fifth’ element, Love. Have a wonderful week everyone, Christy
“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies – “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
Where to start?
Everything cracks and shakes,
the air trembles with similes,
No one world’s better than another;
the earth moans with metaphors.
~ Osip Mandelstam
Wildlife and stars
Blanket the night
You lying beside me, darling
Eyes wide open
While the wide arc of the globe is turning
We feel it moving through the dark
Hear the hills
Scrape the sky
And our eyes fill with the falling sparks
Then we know that we’re alive
If we weren’t
I reach for you by my side and soar”
~ “Revolution Earth” by B-52’s from Good Stuff
“Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive.” ~ Pablo Neruda
“The whole world is, to me, very much “alive” – all the little growing things, even the rocks. I can’t look at a swell bit of grass and earth, for instance, without feeling the essential life – the things going on – within them. The same goes for a mountain, or a bit of the ocean, or a magnificent piece of old wood.” ~ Ansel Adams
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
“I’m digging in the dirt
Stay with me I need support
I’m digging in the dirt
To find the places I got hurt
To open up the places I got hurt”
~ “Digging in the Dirt” by Peter Gabriel from Us
Planting bulbs last December, I had to cut
the cold, taut skin of ground, churn it into
wet yogurt-clods with my shovel. I felt sad
about that, the lopsided garden bed, the messy
swirls on the sidewalk. Shovel:
I love the word the way I love
tools—because of the hard silver edge at the end
that makes the tongue dip and rise again,
scraping the bottom of the mouth. Poets
do that too: dig down for the winter
beneath—and sometimes we plant
a word there, or two, though mine usually die
from neglect, a late frost, or poor planning.
I wonder sometimes about language
before the word shovel and I think then
we said digging stick, prying the round soaplant
bulb from the wet April soil—
& then someone thought of metal, and not long
after, shovels. Last week someone I love very much
became ill and the doctor scissored out a whole part
of his body. Afterwards, my friend wanted it back,
but the doctor needed to cut to sections,
for slides. Well, can I have the slides? he asked.
Sometimes we dig a thing out because
it’s needed elsewhere. Like mercury,
shoveled out from these blue oak hills,
to gather gold fines. Later, men held
shovel-fuls of mercury-gold over
fire, the mercury soon disappearing into sky and rain.
A scientist on mercury: Once you dig it out out
you can never get rid of it. It stays
on the surface forever. (In one winter,
a ton of mercury came down Cache Creek).
It helps sometimes to think of the lines
of the shovel itself, the handle oiled with my
own thumbs, the jut of the heel, the muscled curve
tarnished with rust. I envy the face of the shovel,
which hides, so well, all emotion. Lately, the word
shovel isn’t enough, so we say bulldozer,
tractor, motor grader. These things are needed,
but what is removed goes elsewhere: small streams
and the few pennies on the map we call lakes.
My friend? The doctor says he can have
a prosthesis, later, if he likes. And so I think—
another thing a shovel does: puts back. So this morning
I am here, shovel deep in the dirt,
planting a stick of willow. I am sorry it is such
a small one, and I am sorry I will probably
neglect it, though dirt carries on sometimes,
without us, and in astonishing ways. Today, I dig
down for deeper words, a darker way
to explain all my takings, but I hit rocks early, and tire.
If you find the ones I’m looking for, dig them up.
“Down there the scent of the sap and the flowers from the many gardens near the coast used to intoxicate me, and I wanted to burrow my fingers in the dark burning earth. I would roam about and try to remember your face, and draw in the perfume of your body. I would stretch my arms out in the air to touch as much as possible of your sunlight.” ~ Henri Barbusse, Hell
“Time weighs down on you like an old, ambiguous dream. You keep on moving, trying to slip through it. But even if you go to the ends of the earth, you won’t be able to escape it. Still, you have to go there – to the edge of the world. There’s something you can’t do unless you get there.” ~ Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
“To the ends of the earth, would you follow me
There’s a world that was meant for our eyes to see
To the ends of the earth, would you follow me
Well if you want, I will say my goodbyes to me
I was a-ready to die for you, baby
Doesn’t mean I’m ready to stay
What good is livin’ a life you’ve been given
If all you do is stand in one place”
~ “Ends of the Earth” by Lord Huron on Lonesome Dreams
“Between one tree and another, there is all the thirst of the earth.” ~ Edmond Jabès, The Book of Questions: Volume I
“The land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.” ~ Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind
“Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land. It’s just in their head. They’re all the time talkin’ about it, but it’s jus’ in their head.” ~ John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”
~ A.A. Milne
“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
~ Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
“You think man can destroy the planet? What intoxicating vanity. Let me tell you about our planet. Earth is four-and-a-half-billion- years-old. There’s been life on it for nearly that long, 3.8 billion years. Bacteria first; later the first multicellular life, then the first complex creatures in the sea, on the land. Then finally the great sweeping ages of animals, the amphibians, the dinosaurs, at last the mammals, each one enduring millions on millions of years, great dynasties of creatures rising, flourishing, dying away — all this against a background of continuous and violent upheaval. Mountain ranges thrust up, eroded away, cometary impacts, volcano eruptions, oceans rising and falling, whole continents moving, an endless, constant, violent change, colliding, buckling to make mountains over millions of years. Earth has survived everything in its time. It will certainly survive us. If all the nuclear weapons in the world went off at once and all the plants, all the animals died and the earth was sizzling hot for a hundred thousand years, life would survive, somewhere: under the soil, frozen in Arctic ice. . . . In the thinking of the human being, a hundred years is a long time. A hundred years ago we didn’t have cars, airplanes, computers or vaccines. It was a whole different world, but to the earth, a hundred years is nothing. A million years is nothing. This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can’t imagine its slow and powerful rhythms, and we haven’t got the humility to try. We’ve been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we’re gone tomorrow, the earth will not miss us.” ~ Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
~ “Digging” by Seamus Heaney from Death of a Naturalist.
This week’s Earth-themed music playlist via YouTube, including music by: Johnny Cash, Eva Cassidy, Counting Crows, Marvin Gaye and more.