As temperatures and leaves began to fall, I took to the yard to prepare for winter.
Like so many other gardeners and lawn stewards, I cut back dying plants, raked those annoying locust pods, and worked up the bare spots for seeding.
Crushing a few of the stubborn clods of clay in my hands, I remembered an old story.
One day, when God came to check on the earth — as a good creator is wont to do — a group of scientists approached.
“May we have a word with You, God?” they asked.
God welcomed and asked what was on their minds.
“We want to inform You about our new game-changing discovery.”
“Yes?” God responded, curious about their scientific breakthrough.
“Well,” a physicist replied, “we have discovered the secret to creating life and we no longer need you.”
“Could you show Me?” God asked with smile.
“Certainly,” a chemist replied and, stealing a trick from the Genesis playbook, she scooped up a handful of soil.
“Wait a minute,” God insisted, “you have to use your own dirt.”
No doubt those scientists began thinking of a recipe for dirt. After all, most of it is just fragments of rock, broken down over billions of years.
If you don’t have that kind of time, you could just mix up a batch of iron, silicon, potassium, magnesium, calcium, trace minerals, and some sodium to taste.
But it gets a little more complicated after that. Soil is not just mineral particles. A critical 10 percent of it is made up of organic matter, water and air.
That single handful of dirt the chemist grabbed was already teeming with life. It had more life forms than the number of people living on earth.
There are the worms: earthworms, grubs and the tiny nematodes.
There are insects, particularly the arthropods — your centipedes, millipedes and mites. And amoebas, fungi and bacteria. A single gram of soil contains a billion bacteria.
It’s no wonder moms urge their kids to wash their dirty hands. But first, they might remind their child of just how much life is coating their skin.
And there is the humus, dead and decomposing plants and animals enriching the soil.
We are far from creating dirt from scratch, much less, life from that dirt.
For now, we who are so moved by the heavens, might ponder, as well, the dirt beneath our feet.
Like God, it is alive, generative and providing for us all.