February 2nd, half way to spring, the mid-point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. It’s Ground Hog’s Day, or, to Wiccans, Imbolc. Imbolc, an ancient Celtic celebration of seasonal change and the planet’s inclination toward spring, is surely a predecessor of our Ground Hog’s Day. Hump Day for winter so to speak.
Yesterday there was warmth in the garden and I saw signals everywhere that we’re leaning springward: green nubs snugly roosting beneath soft piles of compost, gigantous over-wintered weeds, Hellebores weaving a new array of sultry purple bloom into quiet corners of the garden, and, most importantly, there was Light past 5:15. We had cups of cauliflower soup for lunch in the garden, muddy knees and all. And then, Valerie Easton wrote a piece on mulch in today’s paper (Mulching myths: what’s true & new) that got me to thinking about the state of our garden’s dirt.
What is it about dirt? All the ways we think about it in relation to gardens where it’s fawned over, deeply annoying and revered. And recently there’s dirt politics to consider as the planet moves toward a dearth of dirt (of earth) due to mega-population and our seeming need to cement over land for malls and urban sprawl. (Precious Dirt, and Seed + Soil = Ingenuity are previous dirt/land-related MixedGreens posts.)
Turns out babies are born with a survival instinct involving dirt. “Since all instinctive behaviors have an evolutionary advantage or they would not have been retained for millions of years, chances are that this one too has helped us survive as a species. And, indeed, accumulating evidence strongly suggests that eating dirt is good for you.” (NY Times, 1/26/09) I don’t think they’re saying we should eat it by the spoonful, but more in the context of what my dad used to say, that a little dirt never hurt anybody.
We can love dirt every which way in the garden, become activists for saving it and go to drastic lengths to protect our babies from it. For another take on dirt and its benefits read this surprising perspective in the NY Times article (1/26/09), Babies Know: A Little Dirt Is Good for You.
OK then, after reading this NY Times article my instinct tells me to hold off on cleaning the kitchen floor. Happy Ground Hog’s Day to you.