The coastal lands along the Gulf of Mexico are refreshed by violent storms much like certain kinds of forests are renewed by fire. To human inhabitants neither storms nor fires are welcome. Our human habitation can be likened to Tinsel Town—fragile infrastructures in the wake of Earth’s movements and transformations of land, bodies of water, climate and living communities.
Natural storms are “bad enough” from our perspective, yet we fail to realize that we’ve created far greater storms in oil spills, ecological disturbances, and overheating the biosphere. Equally disruptive is the steady depletion of top soil through industrialization of our food supply. One spoonful of topsoil contains millions of creatures and constellations of minerals that in concert allow seeds to germinate. Comparatively gigantic invertebrates move silently through this groundwork under our feet, transforming it, aerating and loosening soil so that probing rootlets can plumb its treasure, drawing life.
Animate Earth…this is the seat of renewal. Under our feet, under roads, under massive buildings and bridges, miles and miles of houses, businesses, playgrounds, and landfills, the earthworks carry on their life-generating web. We build over them, they disappear and we forget the source of life. Small farmers know it; migrants who hand harvest know it; backyard gardeners rediscover it, and food banks appreciate it. Yet governments and chambers of commerce exclude earthworks from their ledgers and blueprints and planning. The ground under our feet – no longer felt between our toes – recedes from our awareness.
Until a storm.
Harbinger of awareness, storms literally tear us from our beds, exposing us to the very smell of earth, the touch of wind and rain – violently thrust upon us like a smack to the cheek: Wake up, Man!
Surely there are gentler ways to learn how to live. But, alas, we require evermore fury to capture our attention in the virtual realities of modernity.
Assignment: I dare you to take off your shoes, go outside and plant them in soil. Introduce or reintroduce your feet to the planet—whichever may be the case. I guarantee it will be amazing. Some of us still remember that day school got out for a long, summer’s vacation (about two and a half months of roaming, lounging, and Bazooka bubble-gum popping) when we ceremoniously removed our shoes to go barefoot for months at a time. That experience for kids in the U.S. A. disappeared about three decades ago. A new generation has never felt soil between their toes. Will they be thinking of mining other planets, interstellar travel, and other-worldly scenarios? Are we on the brink of floating off the planet itself in a cloud of twitter. Well, if we are going to have our “heads in a cloud” we’d better keep our feet on the ground!