Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Good Earth

My grandparents lived on a half acre in Morrison County, Minnesota, about a mile and a half south of Upsala. They lived in a small farm house, with a barn that had seen better days. Central Minnesota is where the glaciers dropped a whole lot of gravel during the end of the last ice age. The house lacked running water, so my grand mother had to take the dishwater and slop out every day. It had been decided that a small cesspool would be constructed for her, a short distance from the kitchen and connected to her sink, to ease her burden a bit. I was old enough to be allowed to help shoveling out the pit for the cesspool. My dad, some uncles and I took turns digging the grave-like pit. The soil was quite compact, and as we got deeper it became quite cool in the shaft. Examining the strata in the walls, I noticed that the gravelly composition of the earth below the top soil was full of crushed granite. There was a cool mineral smell to it, very fresh and moist.

This earth had supported several generations of substinence farmers already, but at only a foot or so down, it had not been disturbed for ten thousand years. When I was in the shaft, deeper than I was tall, I could feel the mass of the earth as an invisible force, pressing against me, not oppressively, but in a benign fashion. The good earth. Our mother.

I left that cool womb and climbed up, back into the heat of the afternoon. Parched from my labor, I went to the pump and filled the copper cup that hung there with cold, iron-rich well water. Mother's milk.

By Professor Batty


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