Return to the Earth

Autofiction — confinement in rural France.

Source

The spade flies into the air above my raised arms, above the hot crown of my head. To watch it, I have to stare into the sunlight. It goes black against the sun, like a lunar eclipse, before flashing through its descent.

The metal shines out where once, green paint covered the blades: sanded, scraped away by one too many returns to this earth. I split clumps of bunching grass, even the flesh of old fallen trees that have slipped below the soil. Beg forgiveness of the earthworms even as I wonder at their force.

The earth is at once disintegrating, and teeming with the new, the wiggling, tiny, naked lives shocked at being found before the light of day. Unearthed.

Stopping for a moment to wipe the exploded soil from my forehead, I first notice all I can’t hear — not a car passing, not a crane straining, not a bulldozer moving the earth. Even the distant traffic of cars in the valley has gone silent. The birds! They are near deafening. And amidst all of it, I can hear the quiet scraping of shovels, the mineral sound of spades and picks. We have all returned, it seems, to this soil.

I’m not used to having so much time to spend in the garden. No one is. We are used to commuting, stopping to drink coffee with friends before checking our emails, shaking hands, kissing cheeks before rewiring electrical installations, or teaching the young…shopping, running this way, that. No one is prepared for this unfettered empty expanse of time. And so we dig.

We dig as if our lives depended on it. And wonder if we are headed for a time when that is not an exaggeration. I toss a handful of seeds saved from last year into the soil — thorny swiss chard, mustard, radish, roquette. The kind of thing that grows wild anyway. One thing my bumbling human hands can’t botch.

On my hour-long walk, I laugh with all the neighbors I pass. Every one of them — alone in their gardens, leaning on shovels and spades, waving from behind hedges and drives, amongst their chickens, children, and the strange constructions everyone is suddenly building.

All of them, shoveling, scraping, digging.

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Trisha Traughber

Immigrant, bilingual, mother, teacher, book-worm, writer. Life is better when we create - together.