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High on Dirt

I don’t have the greenest thumb in the world, but I like to make things grow. So I keep lots of plants in my windows, potted herbs on the kitchen counter, and during the summer even a few larger containers outside.

With the days getting warm, it’s time to decide what to grow in those containers this year. I’m thinking about green onions. Maybe carrots. Definitely tomatoes. (Gotta have tomatoes!)

It doesn’t really matter. For me, it’s not the harvest. It’s the planting and the tending I love most—the journey not the destination and all that. I just like to get my hands in the dirt whether it’s digging a new home for a tiny seedling or pulling the weeds that want to get its way. It makes me feel complete somehow. It makes me happy.

There’s just something about working the soil and making food happen. And now I know what: I’m high on dirt!

Well, not quite. But definitely sort of. Today, I read about a soil microbe called Mycobacterium vaccae that’s like Prozac. When we’re exposed to it, it boosts our serotonin supply, the stuff in our brains that keeps us happy. Without serotonin, we’d all be anxious and depressed.

Which is funny because I feel the same way about gardening—without it, life’s a downer. But I guess when I’m digging around in the dirt, I’m breathing in Mycobacterium vaccae, getting it on my skin, and into any little cuts or scrapes I happen to have. And it’s making me feel alright.

No wonder people love their gardens. It’s a pantry and a pharmacy all in one! Seriously though, we could all do a lot worse than grow something good to eat and get good and dirty doing it. Bacteria or not, gardening is a kind of meditation. For me, it’s like a Zen retreat at the end of my spade.

You should try it if you haven’t. Grow a few things this summer. Get out in the sun and dig in the dirt. A bunch of crazy soil scientists swear it’ll make you smile.


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