For Christmas, I got the gift of dirt.
When we bought our house in Strathroy, one of the first things we did was put in a vegetable garden in the backyard. It was a plain rectangle cut into the lawn, and we ordered several yards of rich loam to fill it.
Since my children were then only four and two, we knew they would love a chance to play in the dirt. On the day of the soil’s arrival, we did the hard, sweaty work of moving it from the driveway to the backyard. We raked it smooth and piled up the edges. Then we brought out the big yellow Tonka trucks and set the kids loose in the huge patch of fluffy, fresh-smelling earth. What a riot!
S. loved it more than A. to be sure. She got right into the middle of the garden, covered head to toe in dirt by the end of the day (we had the forethought to dress them both in bathing suits so we could hose them off when they were finished playing!). But both pretended to be truck drivers, hauling earth, paving roads and creating vast construction sites. They dug and sifted, made holes and piles, and laughed themselves silly. We have some great pictures of that fun afternoon before the carrots and tomatoes were planted and the toys went back to the sandbox.
I thought of that this week when I had a few free moments. I snuck downstairs to my little basement ‘grow op’. I tidied up the leftover seed packets from last year, reorganized the potting containers and checked on the lights that I will soon need to start my seedlings. I also used the last of the seed-starting mix to fill up a tray or two of cell packs. It may not yet be planting time, but I was in need of a little pick-me-up.
As I breathed in that brown earth, all peaty and moist, I remembered that day with the kids and their trucks. In fact, I remembered a million moments I have delighted in since since then, too–spring rains and harvested potatoes, long walks and warm sunshine. That whiff of dirt brought back rich, wonderful memories.
Which is why I love that my husband and daughter E. teamed up to buy me something special for Christmas: Dirt cologne.
Yes, that’s what it smells like: beautiful, rich humus. I love it because it is joy and comfort all at once. I spray it on my wrists in the morning and then anytime I want I can inhale a deep breath and be taken right out to the garden.
In this exceptionally snowy winter, I am glad of a quick sniff of spring and the chance to savour all of the earthy memories that come flooding back. You might think it’s odd to want to smell like soil, but I guess that’s just me.
Maybe you should look at the Demeter catalogue to find your own memory-bringing scent. I’m not sure you’d want to order Funeral Home (whose idea was that?). But perhaps you would like Salt Air. Or Holy water. Or maybe Gin and Tonic would suit you. I say bring on the happy memories!