• One Minnesota Writer

Earth Science

Yesterday, I dug in the dirt. Warm April weather, sunshine, a Sunday in which there were no obligations – a perfect day to be outside, dirt yielding to spade, shovel, weed puller. I dug allium out of one of our gardens, its tangled roots an iron-clad mat that pushed back. But I am as stubborn as those roots. The allium eventually loosened its grasp, naked roots tossed in a pile later relocated to the yard waste bin.

Those strong roots, the way I cut them off, yanked them from their home, made me think of a list of other things: the strong women in my family who don’t let go of things, how people tear up the earth, refugees pulled and pushed from their homeland, the tenacity of life that does not want to leave the place that nurtures it. Transplanting is hard; eradication is cruel. Fear gets embedded in roots, insidious and perverse, a parasite that loves the soft, dark dirt.

I moved to the stonecrop, also overgrown. Its roots weren’t as tough as the allium; it gave up its spot as if to say, yes, we know – just thought we’d give it a shot. Two such different plants taking over the same area of the garden, side-by-side.

On Saturday, Mick and I and a few friends honored Earth Day by attending the March for Science in St. Paul. Ten thousand people were there, signs waving, lab coats flapping, heads covered with crocheted hats that looked like brains. The mood was fairly peaceful, with many older people and jubilant kids happy to be outside. These marchers included a lot of quiet, thoughtful people who wanted everyone to understand how science has contributed to all aspects of our lives. Pick anything and there is some scientific contribution behind it: the comfortable clothes we wear, the safe food we eat, the music we listen to on our iPods, the coffeemaker that gives us our morning elixir, the cars that get us to work or take us to the doctor, the bikes we pedal, the bus passes we swipe to pay for our rides, the very fact that we’ve survived childhood.

Everything I know about gardening comes from science. As I dug in the dirt yesterday, I also thought more about the march and what it stood for. I thought about the fears some have around scientific progress even though they know they’ve benefitted from past progress. Change is hard, even if it helps society. But fear is the hardest thing of all to eradicate.

And why is that such a powerful human trait – fear of change? I can understand caution, the value of getting all the facts before making change. But once something has shown its benefits, been proven to offer something good – like vaccinations, clean water, clean air, proper nutrition – how can we fail to support those changes? How can we ignore the fact that laws and government policies affect science and research and, in turn, our own well-being?

Pulling invasive plants from garden soil is therapeutic. Getting my hands dirty, plunging them into the earth while trying not to hurt the spiders who scurry out of the way or the earth worms who wriggle in the moist clumps of soil, is a form of prayer. This bit of ground under my care will not lie to me: it will shift with the seasons, offer bounty when well-tended and soothe my heart in return.

It is the map for everything.

March for Science Minnesota

All photos by KCMickelson 2017

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