Put Your Troubles in the Dirt

“Put your troubles in the dirt, where all good bullshit belongs.”  My daddy knew instinctively what science has only in recent years affirmed; that the microbes in soil light up the serotonin receptors in our brains.  But he also knew, as a farmer, that while manure might be unpleasant, it was a necessary ingredient for growth of healthy soil and subsequently food. It is what you do with it, that makes all the difference.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my hands in the dirt this past week.  Buffalo, Uvalde, Ukraine, not to mention subjugation of womens’ bodily autonomy, the banning of books, the denigration of trans and queer people through “Don’t Say Gay” in one state and punishing of parents and medical folk (who would honor and support trans youth) in another.  You add to that the ongoing trauma of white supremacy, climate change, growing homelessness resulting from corporate greed.  Then when anything in our own personal lives gets added into the mix….. I’ve heard from others (and felt myself) the exhaustion of hopelessness.  I return to the garden to try to rebuild those serotonin levels which are so depleted right now.

About twenty years ago, when the ice shelves started collapsing and I got involved in Jewish environmental work, I looked anew at the Hebrew scripture’s words, flowing with images of nature and our relationship to it, and realized for the first time that those were not just poetics. It was the lived truth of an agrarian society which understood what we have forgotten.  Caring for the planet, honoring all life, welcoming the stranger, caring for the destitute were essential to a peaceful and flourishing community.

As our lives have become more and more insular, locked into the screens which have siloed our realities and normalized AR-15’s, we have become not only divorced from our own backyards, but from our families, neighbors, communities.  We have devolved into tribalism, and many bemoan the lack of civility let alone compassion.  And even where we have shared interests, (be that liberal or conservative), there is discord when attempts to find common ground are derailed by grasping for power and the “right” degree of partisanship.  Even within well-meaning organizations, the white supremacist capitalist culture we all are subject to convinces us that the world is one of scarcity, so we must overwork and “get ahead” of the other ‘guy’ or risk falling behind, beneath, or into oblivion.

We look at the heartbroken families whose children will never again laugh and play, and our hearts break with theirs knowing that the powers that be will only offer “thoughts and prayers” but will not stand up to the NRA or the other corporate interests. The white nationalist and conservative elements scream that no one can make them wear a mask or give up their guns, but they are equally adamant that neither a pregnant person nor a trans youth can have that same bodily autonomy. Ironically, we applaud the people of Ukraine in their fight for democracy against a fascist oligarchy, while we let our own democracy decay and oligarchy grow here at home.

STOP!!! I know I’m not alone when I beseech all that is holy to deliver us from this insanity. Like the prophets of old, our sages of this day are calling us to “Wake Up!” and change our ways. 

So I keep returning to the earth, the dirt, our Mother, the humus to our humanity.  The sages of old, for all their “flowery” poetics were speaking quite plainly. The wisdom of Mother Earth and the creative forces we call Divinity are continuing to teach us, if only we will listen.  While fires destroy the monocultures of our forestry industry, an old-growth, biodiverse forest not only withstands fire but needs a certain amount of it for some seeds to be able to propagate.  While our modern agricultural system is killing soil microbes and polluting our waters with toxins, regenerative and biodiverse food forests rebuild the soil and bear much more nutrient-rich foods and bioswales purify our water and withstand hurricanes. While we clear cut forests and strip mine the earth, the root systems and mycelial networks are funneling information and supporting the health of many species as a collective living community. While the corporatocracy and White Nationalism would convince us that the world is hierarchical and only the strong & powerful should survive, nature is reflecting what we all actually know (when our brains are not hijacked by the trauma responses of fight/flight/freeze or fawn); that a healthy diverse society cares for the widow and orphan, welcomes the stranger, shares its bounty for the betterment of the collective, and treasures above all else the children who are our futures. 

It is time to remember that, while there will always be seemingly insurmountable issues to contend with, it is what we do with those issues that makes the difference. A seedling grown in outer space cannot become a tree without the resistance provided by gravity and wind. But staying stuck in the trauma and the muck keeps us in a perpetual loop of disfunction; we can’t grow and thrive either in our beings or spirits. It is when we can ground into resilience and reach out to one another in compassion that we are able to re-engage our creative minds to find solutions. We will either stay in tribal-trauma mentality or engage our communal, compassionate and wise pre-frontal cortex to find solutions to the challenges and heartaches we face. We must, as all the holy sages teach, let go of the constant fear to be able to live into love’s potential. It is time to awaken from the illusions which cause suffering, greed, fear and anger. It is time again to beat swords (or AR-15’s) into plowshares. It is time to release all the bullshit into the earth and watch Eden grow once again.

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