There is just something about dirt.
Maybe it is the fact that our society tells us to sit and be organized all day….
“Take your shoes off! You are getting the floors dirty!”
“Don’t touch that! You might get dirty!”
“Go wash your hands! You are so dirty!!”
“Change those jeans!! They are completely dirty!!”
Somehow, in our clean-obsessed society, dirt has become a four-lettered word. We even cute little anti-bacterial gels that we hang from our children’s backpacks….just in ase they would have a run-in with some dirt.
I like dirt.
There, I said it.
I actually think dirt is healthy (mic drop). Infact, there are countless studies backing up the notion that a lot of anxiety and sensory issues, including ADD and ADHD, can be helped with getting a little dirty.
The idea of playing, digging and working in the ground has become less and less obtainable. More massive homes with mini-lots are being built. Less natural parks and more structured play. Less “I’m going outside to dig to China” (I think a lot of us actually did this) and more “I’m going to sit on the couch and play video games.”
Dirt is cool. It’s fun to dig up something and discover how large and weird grubs are, or to discover remnants of ancient ant colonies. It’s cool to check out plants that you, yourself planted, and then watch them grow. It’s actually healthy to get your hands in the dirt, which is full of depression-aiding qualities. Truly. It’s been proven by scientists who actually study dirt. (Not me…I’m not a scientist. I just keep my hands in the dirt planting heirloom bulbs).
Yesterday, I had 4 boys hanging out in the dirt. One boy has Autism, and another boy is a mentor who simply loves plants. The other two are both fiddle students , and are also Garden Helpers. All boys are there, digging in the dirt, helping each other. Through generous grants, I am able to employ kids to work the gardens. (Basically, I pay them to get dirty.) Many of these kids are at-risk kids…..teenagers with mental health challenges or sensory issues, kids who are trauma survivors, kids who have depression, anxiety or social challdnges, and many live in poverty. Being a Garden Helper is a special job, and it means a lot to me. Special care is taken with each new teen hired. (You never knew dirt was so special, did you?)
I enjoyed listening to them talk. Watching them plant bulbs, flip dirt on each other, and talk about Minecraft as they just sat among the flowers and heirloom bulbs.
“What is your favorite flower?”
“Well, I like the Iris that we planted last week by the house. I think I have one at my house but I never noticed it before…….”
Conversations like this are golden to me. Our Earth is depending on young gardeners to grow up, and continue to care for the gardens. Without them, who will take care of ensuring the Monarch Butterfly continues to migrate? Or helping the bees continue to thrive? Or supporting the Organic farms so they continue to help bring us good food to eat?
One of my favorite books is called Last Child in the Woods. A great resource for parents about the benefits of being dirty. Just letting them play. Ironically, my copy floated down the river in the recent flood. (It was probably the book’s favorite moment in this life.)
It is time to let our kids get back to nature. It really is ok to be dirty…..in fact, your kids will thank you later.
Happy Gardening, my friends.