February 1, 2007

Dirt & Anchovies

Category: Family,Miscellaneous :: Permalink

At our Wednesday night Bible studies, I often start with a short story or a brief essay, partly because I like reading to people (well, maybe that’s the main reason, but let’s keep that a secret) but also because I want the members of my congregation to have a sense that what we’re studying in the Bible is tied to the rest of life and because my calling here is not simply to “plant a church” but to build a culture.

I’ve recently been enjoying Brian Doyle’s collection of essays entitled Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies and so, last night, I read to the group this essay, “Eating Dirt,” which begins like this:

I have a small daughter and two smaller sons, twins. They are all three in our minuscule garden at the moment, my sons eating dirt as fast as they can get it off the planet and down their gullets. They are two years old, they were seized with dirt-fever an instant ago, and as admirably direct and forceful young men, quick to act, true sons of the West, they are going to eat some dirt, boy, and you’d better step aside.

Alas, this version of the essay is shorter than the one in the book.  Only traces of these paragraphs appear in that earlier version:

It occurs to me that we all eat dirt.  Fruits and vegetables are dirt transformed by light and water.  Animals are vigorous dirt, having dined on fruit or vegetables or other animals who dine on flora.  Our houses and schools and offices are cupped by dirt and made of wood and stone and brick — former dirt.  Glass is largely melted sand, a kind of clean dirt.  Our clothing used to be dirt.  Paper was trees was dirt.  We shape dirt into pots, plates, mugs, vases.  We breathe dirt suspended in the air, we crunch it between our teeth, on spinach leaves and fresh carrots, we wear it in the lines of our hands and the folds of our faces, we catch it in the linings of our noses and eyes and ears.  Some people are driven by private fires to eat dirt, often during pregnancy — the condition is called pica, from the Latin word for magpie.

In short we swim in an ocean of dirt, yet we hardly ever consider it closely, except to plump it for its treasures, or furrow it for seed, or banish it from our persons, clothes, houses.  We’re suckers for dramatic former dirt — cougars, lilies, bears, redwoods — but don’t often reflect on the basic stuff itself: good old simple regular normal orthodox there-it-sits-under-everthing dirt (p. 92).

And, speaking of Brian Doyle, who knew anchovies were so interesting?

Posted by John Barach @ 11:26 am | Discuss (2)

2 Responses to “Dirt & Anchovies”

  1. Vic Martens Says:

    Most people are scared to eat anchovies, and won’t even try ’em. Same for dirt, although in that case most of us who are past toddlerhood quit after one try.

    It seems to me that another thing about eating is that we eat what is “clean” and emit what is “unclean”. What goes into a man doesn’t make him unclean, but what comes out. Matthew 15:11 includes every sort of thing a man might emit, from dirt to words.

    In fact Garry V recently noted in a sermon that the birth of a child made the mother ceremonially unclean; another thing which comes out of a (wo)man which makes unclean.

    Likewise, everything touched by an unclean thing or person becomes unclean, but what Jesus touched became clean (ie healing, forgiveness.

  2. ben carnahan Says:

    that book just moved to the top of my “i want, i need” list. thanks.

Leave a Reply