In Genesis, for reasons that scholars and faithful have pondered for generations, the medium is less poetic than music, less ethereal than the clouds, significantly drier than rivers, but only slightly more noble than vomit. Dirt. That, according to the text, is the nature of us. Soil.
"Then the LORD God formed a creature from the dust of the ground and breathed into its nostrils the breath of life, and the creature became a living being." (Genesis 2:7)From the humus, a human. Animated soil; somehow, mysteriously, in the very image of its Creator. Exactly what we are to make of that affirmation is unclear, although my comprehension of God has often been described as "muddy." But from the very beginning, apparently, scholars have debated about this dirt-born image. Is it an intrinsic tug toward humility ("remember, you are nothing but dirt"), or is it a nod to an attribute fundamentally holy?
Both, I suppose, are useful, but I confess that I lean more in the direction of holiness. Whatever we are to make of the earth, it is clear from the story that God went to great pains to set it apart; and I rather like the picture of God artistically -- or is it playfully -- fashioning me out of clay and thereby leaving all over my being fingerprints of the divine. Perhaps that helps account for my fascination these days with soil -- honoring it, understanding its particular attributes, tending it, and stewarding out of its depths food that nourishes me even as it was first nourished by the worms and the minerals and the myriad constituent parts of the land that is -- or at least will be -- our garden.
My land. The land that is me. Holiness, indeed.