In a square inch of soil we were told you will find all the history pertinent to your time and all you need to know in this world concerning all you need to know. We laughed at the old Teacher and labeled him The Jockey because he was on our backs all the time. We may have laughed but I for one was out in the hot sun for hours. As the years took me, I often thought of the old Teacher and what he tried to teach. He was an influence in my life in every segment teaching.
How could such a statement have any meaning in this day of technology and economic problems? How could studying a square inch of soil put me in touch with my roots, with my humanity, with my self? I knew my classmates gave more thought to this than they were ready to admit.
Hours spent on hands and knees looking at the lifted square inch wondering how it would answer the questions harbored. I stared at it and saw nothing but cut off roots. But on further study ants appeared with root hairs snaking through. Questions formed and I wondered out loud if perhaps in Egypt was the same composition? At some Oasis? Or was the grass just our hybrid, but might grow elsewhere with root transplanted along with what it was fed, somewhat like a belief system? Certain foods, rituals and customs practiced and honored?
Was this the soil of my childhood and my ancestors? What were the practices and procedures then? Transplanted would their grasses grow where I was rooted.? Would I have difficulty being transplanted with new roots and customs? One question fed another. And soon with thoughts of more root systems dusk was near with a chill in the air. I replaced the soil as we had been taught and looked to the night with a new moon arising.
I was very young then but I continued the practice of going out to the fields. With insatiable curiosity that the Jockey had instilled, I was learning new life forms and rituals which were not only interesting but necessary if peace was to be a fact. This kernel of knowledge fed not only me but my children also. When curiosity about the outside world exploded in their lives, fields became our private yards and weeds noticed and their history unearthed. Their possibilities were endlessly discussed and often ended up as table decoration.
This led to the study of June bugs and fireflies and how many were needed in a mason jar to read by? Seeds were planted, grasses sown and nurtured. Big and little dippers were sought nightly and moon phases studied.
Root systems, cultures, ancestry all with histories uncovered. Leading toward philosophies studied, literature dissected with humanity’s progress followed through baseball statistics, and runners still carrying the message to Garcia.
We pick up smooth stones to find our names on them. They too have life in slow vibration for ears attuned to them. Climate changes are our concern with glaciers melting where they should not, rubber trees no longer grow and some species of birds no longer fly. The world is our classroom and those unborn our concern.
It is said that when the student is ready the Teacher appears. It is often when we need that one the most to change our lives forever. My hope is for everyone to have the Jockey who will give that pertinent point to start the journey from even one square inch of soil. To awaken the questing mind that keeps the curious mind alive. I was fortunate to have a Teacher who considered his life’s work sacred. And when I see a child with a scoop of soil and studying it carefully, I know that child has been truly gifted.
Art by Claudia Hallissey