Dirt!-y Thoughts
Categories: food, gardens, health, living, love, nature

By: Michelina Docimo

Last night, I spent hours thinking dirty, sinking my hands into luscious loamy soil, squeezing silt and sand in between my toes, mmm the intoxicating smell of  the wet earth.   The Greenwich Audubon hosted an event that realized this fantasy and appreciation for soil by bringing together some of Connecticut’s finest organic farmers, artisan cheese , bread, and wine makers, and honey beekeepers.  After an hour of mingling and co-mingling of flavors came a screening of Dirt! The Movie, a documentary (with heart and soil) about one of our richest natural resources literally on the face of the planet.  It brought back so many memories.

Rejoicing in a red brown dust cloud, the film opens with a circle of Indian children in complete abandon – throwing fistfuls of soil into the air, kicking up their heels, smiling, cheering, all in the name of dirt.  It reminded me of when I was five, outside with my sisters and cousins, cooking and baking with dirt.   We would imagine we were restauranteurs and pastry chefs, mixing soil and water into to-die-for mud pies.  I always decorated mine with dandelions and for sure would add a secret ingredient to the recipe.  In Haiti, though, as the film points out, a reality for some children who have no other choice, is to eat cakes made of dirt to prevent starvation.  Dirt! addresses how we have disconnected our feet from what lies underneath, disregarding the millions of years that have taken for soil to form from parent bedrock, and neglecting the delicious nutrients that live within this life-giving matter.  But it  also offers hope on how we can take “hummingbird” steps in correcting this damage and preserve the earth’s soil for future generations to walk upon.

So many good things come from the soil.  We grow our food in it, we build our homes on it, we walk, dance, and celebrate on it, we even bury our dead in it.  ”We are made of the same elements as dirt.  We are dirt.”  But we disrespect dirt and each other.  Have you ever watched a bird bathe in bone-dry dirt?  Ruffling feathers, like the Indian children in the circle, dirt cleanses the soul.  Soils’ healing components can be miraculous, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  God created Adam with breath and dust, the essence of man’s physical body and spiritual soul.  Jesus made blind men see by covering their eyes with mud; every religion, every history, every generation, every battle has been fought on soil.  But peace can be gained with soil too.

The film documents how New York’s boldest inmates have come to find peace with themselves all through experiencing dirt as the foundation of a garden.  It reminded me of one spring and summer when I volunteered with patients who suffered from severe depression, planting container gardens of herbs and vegetables.  I’ll never forget the first day of planting how one of the patients, in complete innocence, confided in me that she had never planted anything before, asking if she was gardening correctly.  I assured her it was perfect.  I don’t remember her face well, but the image of her hands patting so gently around the basil stem touched me deeply.  The connection between soil (and other natural elements) degradation and human degradation is real.  Why do we use language like, “dirt poor,” “dumb as dirt,” ”treat someone like dirt,” to mean that we show someone no respect?  Every life deserves to be respected.

A few days ago, I was sitting in a park by a river on the phone.  While carrying on my conversation, I noticed two young boys about the age of 11 tie up their bikes and make their way closer to the river to cast rocks.  They had a target – a duck!  A real live duck.  Still on the phone, I begin to lose concentration as an angry elderly man about 70 or so, approaches the boys screaming – “Hey, what are you doing?  Where are your parents?  How would you like it if I threw rocks at you?  Huh – how would you like it?”  The boys drop the rocks, look up and one simply says – “I wouldn’t like it.”   Amazed at how quickly their behavior changed from carelessly attacking an innocent bird to shame and a feeling of self-reflection, I thought – I wonder if they’ll remember this, if they’ll remember the stranger’s words, the sound of his voice, the look in his eyes, his stern stature.  They made their way back to their bikes and left.  It reminded me of the story of Mary Magdalene, the prostitute, and how a group of men surrounded her ready to stone her to death and how Jesus stepped in to save her life, which then made me think of the Iranian widow set to be stoned to death earlier this month, but who’s inhumane death was haulted due to an outpouring chorus of international outrage, which brought me back to the echoing words of the stranger and how we all play a part in saving a life.  This then made think about the frightening statistic in Dirt! The Movie, of the number of farmers committing suicide in India (over 200,000 farmers since 1997) by drinking the pesticide they are forced to use on their crops to produce certain yields.  These farmers are lured by big businesses to plant  their corporate seeds which rely on these chemicals to create a monoculture commodity.  When the yields are not met, these peasant farmers see no resolution to their debt, and in despair take their own lives.  Connecting my thoughts, this then reminded me of the growing number of suicides recently by fishermen in the Gulf area due to the spill (see my story, Salon Dialogue, Mind Monologue: The Spill).  Just a brief diversion of how our lives are pinched and pressed like a potter throwing claying – how when we degrade dirt, people suffer.

The movie brought back memories of college, studying soils.  The professor was brilliant and endearing how during field trips, he would wipe his nose and pat his forehead with a handkerchief and a streak and dab of soil would color his face like blush.  The colors!  I fell in love with the colors in the lab – maroon and lava clays, rusty brick silts, golden persimmon sands.  And the smells!  Places smell differently because their soil compositions are unique.  Whenever I step off a plane,  I take a deep breath to inhale the essence of a new place.  And the tastes!  Ok,  no, I don’t have pica disease and I’ve never really eaten dirt, but I love beets!  Beets, to me, are the quintessential food of the earth.  They taste like what my mud pies looked like, except juicier.

So many other memories popped into my head, building sand castles, slathering myself with mud on the beaches of Anzio, mushroom picking… It’s hard to stop thinking dirty.  There will be a sequel to this.  I see it now – composting and worms.  I promise.

By: Michelina Docimo

Photo by: Michelina Docimo

Watch Dirt! The Movie trailer here: Dirt! The Movie Trailer

For more information on the movie, visit:

List of Exhibitors at the “Dirt! The Movie” reception

  • Edibles Advocates Alliance/Shared Harvest CT – a consultant for grass-roots, agricultural, and socially innovative organizations. Visit their website.
  • Fairfield Green Food Guide – a free website dedicated to helping consumers source local and sustainably grown food and connecting with the green food community.
  • Fairfield Organic Teaching Farm – A proposed working farm and organic educational center on town-owned land in Fairfield, CT. For more information see the website.
  • Fairfield Bread Company – a local artisan bread company. Website.
  • Millstone Farm – an organic farm in Wilton owned by Betsy and Jesse Fink and run by Annie Farrell. See website.
  • Mike’s Organic Delivery – a farm-to-door, organic & local food delivery company servicing Greenwich and other nearby towns. For more information please visit their website.
  • Mow Green US – a lawn care company using ‘reel mowers’ to provide quiet, clean and green mowing at no additional cost. Please visit their website.
  • Montgomery Gardens – a supplier of the little known but soon to be famous ‘licorice root’ mulch for gardens, located in Warren, CT.  Telephone: (860) 619-8028.
  • Plantscapes Organics Inc. – a NOFA accredited organic land care professional helping residents and businesses to green their properties. Please visit their website.
  • Red Bee Honey – a Wilton-based artisanal honey and honey-based skin care product producer practicing organic hive management. Please visit their website.
  • Robyn’s Peace Tree Desserts – bakes local and organic, gluten free, and vegan cakes and desserts.  Telephone: (865) 803-9843.
  • Southfield Sustainable Community Platform – a year-round indoor/outdoor farmers’ market and eateries featuring locally grown, organic and epicurean gourmet foods in Stamford.

Sunset Meadow Vineyards in Goshen, CT, owned and operated by the Motel family, has generously donated their award-winning sustainable wines to the event and will be on hand to tell us more about them during the wine and cheese reception. Sunset Meadow Vineyards has been recognized as a 2010 Editors’ Choice in Yankee Magazine’s Travel Guide to New England. This designation is awarded by Yankee’s editors and contributors, who name select restaurants, lodgings, and attractions in New England to the exclusive list.


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