Remembered smells of dirt and rain

Earlier - just before this soothing, calm rain started back again - I decided that it was finally time to go outside and dig the hole for my compost. Do I know what I'm doing? Only more-or-less. I've composted before, when I was growing a sweet little garden in Greensboro. And I've talked to my mom and read some pieces online. Aside from that I certainly don't think of myself as an expert. But I've meant to get this started before now. Have been saving peelings and coffee grounds since I got up here. Today seemed the right time.

As I walked up to the chosen spot, the rain started coming down in fine drizzles. That smell! I'd forgotten what a gentle spring rain smells like. (Seems there's a lot of remembering goin' on up here these days.)

But then the bigger surprise. As I started to dig in the ground, I was taken back to the bemoaned chores of pulling weeds in my grandparents' garden. The smell of dirt served as a time machine and I was back there within moments of lifting the first scoop of dirt. We did it every summer, this weed-pulling. Every summer we groaned about it and every summer we were reminded that hard work is good for us and, too, that perhaps "city kids" are too soft and we'd better get used to it, because all that weeding was necessary to get the healthy dinners we were eating.

I didn't mind the rain falling on my head as I dug, and I didn't mind the memories the smell of that dirt evoked, either. It led to other memories, too, and curiosities. The one memory was of a long-past conversation with a guy I used to know who still lives nearby. One spring day as I sat in his grandmother's yard watching some trees being cut into firewood, he talked about "the smell of river dirt." My 18 year old ears had never heard of such a thing, and it always stuck with me afterward, the idea that river dirt might have its own particular smell. The next time my grandmother sent me down to the river to get her some of that uber-fortified black dirt for her garden, I remembered his assertion and realized it was true. That dirt smells, if I recall, fairly different from the clay-like dirt I drug in today.

Which leads to my cusiosity. Having spent several of my recent years with my hands in clay, forming pots with prepared clay we bought at a ceramic supply house, I never once dug my own clay. But I've known potters who do. Digging in the dirt today, it occurred to me that some of what I saw before me was not unlike the clay with which I've thrown my pieces on a wheel. I never took the time to read up on what makes for good clay and to be perfectly honest, I'm probably not about to start that research today. But it does occur to me to wonder and maybe I'll remember the next time I'm in the company of one of my more experienced potter friends. Just imagine - a whole hillside filled with the material necessary to make glorious pots.

If only I were throwing pots these days. As it is, I'd probably get back to the reading I was doing about CSS Syntax. But Iron & Wine is crooning in the background, and the rain is lulling me and as long as I can stay awake, it's probably as good a time as any to increase my knowledge of the coding that will help me do better work. Hope your Sunday's going just the way you want, too.