friends in the dirt
Tags: conceptual picture of soil, dealing with depression by growing things, getting your hands dirty may make you happier, lobelia, play in the dirt, soil as a living organism, soil as a plural, soil bacteria work as anti-depressants, the earth as an ocean
Category: Life Lessons
I knew it. Scientists now think certain soil bacteria work in the same manner as anti-depressants do.
Please note, I am not suggesting you should stop taking your medicine. I’ve been on anti-depressants before, years ago, and I do not think you will cure chronic or clinical depression by sticking your hands in the ground. (It can’t hurt, though, especially if you plant something colorful and scented that makes you smile.)
But I’ve long known that just the smell of dirt made me feel better, and getting my hands dirty while caring for my plant friends often works wonders for my mood.
It kind of makes sense, too, that human beings’ bodies and minds might have evolved to expect or need that contact with the earth, and that some of us would feel its lack more than others. I know the most depressed I’ve ever been was when living in a high rise with about 10 square feet of balcony space in which to cram a few pots. (Of course, because it’s me, I still grew herbs, tomatoes, and a riot of flowers. The dill was spectacular there, I remember, year after year. And the high rise was in a cold climate, so I could grow lobelia to my heart’s content. The poor things just wither and die in the summer humidity here.)
As I learn more and more about soil, my picture of it is changing dramatically. It is basically a living thing, a huge organism that breathes and regulates itself so that enough space remains to continue breathing, and it has wastes and even cleans up those wastes to make gold, and the gold, itself, is a network of billions of living organisms that can’t be separated from the whole process — and even “it” isn’t the right word.
They. They are very like the ocean now in my conceptual dictionary.
We need a good plural word for “soil,” or “earth,” so that I can use they comfortably and not feel my grammar genie rise up in protest. I’ll be on the lookout. And anyone with word-creation talents, please feel free to contribute your ideas.
P.S. I want to once again reiterate that I’m not offering a blanket prescription for anyone with depression or any other mental illness. Everybody is different, and if you are suffering, I hope you will visit a medical doctor, get some therapy from a therapist or spiritual counselor you click with, and do whatever makes you feel better about living. If that’s growing a flower, great. If it’s reading a romance novel, going on an impromptu hike, changing careers, getting more sleep, learning yoga, taking a bath, or baking dessert, that’s great, too.
Some of the things we need to do to get our enthusiasm for life back seem a little simple, even silly. They’re not. It’s loving this moment, and doing something you love in it, that can often put you on the path to recovery.
But sometimes we need help to be able to get to even that point, and the doing of a tiny action on our own behalf can seem an impossible goal. There is absolutely no shame in admitting you need help or just a little guidance now and then. Life is beautiful and complex, painful and joyful, mysterious and deep, a mix of light and shadow. Sometimes the shadow is wide enough to get lost in. I’ve been lost in the shadow, and if this is where you are now, I send you love and understanding.