Bare Hands in the Dirt

Kyle Elefson

This past weekend, Miska and I spent all day Saturday and a good bit of Sunday knee-deep in Crabgrass, Nutsedge, Chickweed and Creeping Charlie, ripping fistfuls from one of our front garden beds. This was our third venture into the jungle since Spring, with the weeds returning each time, as if they had something to prove. When we returned from vacation, it looked like we needed a tractor and bailer. It was demoralizing.

Early in the season, I bought a nifty pair of working gloves: HydraHydes, quick drying leather that slips like velvet over my rugged, yardman hands (Forgive me, I’m feeling self-conscious. Recently, after making a quip about being a working man, Miska patted my knuckles and chuckled. “Honey,” she said, “you have a writer’s hands.”). Anyways, I went to work with my fancy working-man gloves, piling load after load into the wheelbarrow.

After an hour, I pulled the sweaty gloves from my steaming body and began yanking weeds with bare hands. My fingers dug into damp clay. My hands turned a shade of burnt orange. Cool dirt brushed my skin. Mud jammed under my fingernails, as if I’d scraped bars of chocolate. I was in the dirt, no longer separated by buckskin. The sun sizzled, and I guzzled quarts of water. Yet, it was refreshing, healing, to be in the dirt with no artificial barrier, skin to soil.

It’s tempting to avoid digging into our life, maintaining protection from the real stuff, from the mess, from the mundane. Life isn’t primarily found in grand gestures or wild epiphanies or those rare, remarkable ecstasies (though I’m thankful for each and hope for more). Real life happens as we punch the clock for another day, as we text a friend to say we miss them, as we shut off the work and stream Key & Peele clips with our kids, as we admit to our spouse that we’re lonely. We truly live our life with bare hands in the dirt.

5 Replies to “Bare Hands in the Dirt”

  1. Thank you so much, Winn. You have such a gift … of insight and words. Gardening is so therapeutic for me. And, I love Miska’s sweet, honest words. Our wives have many roles in our lives … one is to encourage and build-up, and another is to make sure we realize we are not “all that.” She is such a great gift to you.

  2. I’ll try to make this short. WE had Bermuda grass lawn that wasn’t the best. With
    the water shortage we replaced it with a smallish rocks that were big enough to compact. After the grass was ripped out a layer of material was placed down to
    stop weeds from coming up. Then the rocks. With all the dirt and whatnot in the
    air some seeds fell on the rocks and those seeds would sprout and up comes a
    weed. We could pluck them out roots and all because the soil was loose. We kept at pulling them out for a year. Would miss a couple weeks and then catch
    8 or 9. Now after short of a year very few come up. After a heavy rain a few might come up but if caught when young they come out easy. Persistence!!

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