It Smells Like Earth

This morning as I made my bed, I again smiled at a gift I received last year, a small pillow filled with I don’t know – pieces of pinecone? I picked it up, held it to my face and breathed deeply in. The earthy scent of the filling filled me. My eyes closed, my body relaxed, my smile broadened.

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Gabi wrote a note to explain the un-ordinary pillow. It helps us get a good sleep, she said. Just have it near you in bed. Why would someone want a pillow filled with forest material? Why would I want one?

Trees stand tall all around me, some towering over 100 feet. Giants they are. This time of year my windows are wide open. Cool freshness wafts in. I hear birds chirping, squirrels chittering, insects singing, an occasional train in the distance rumbling, not much else except my confused hen (the one that thinks she’s a rooster) sometimes crowing.

Yet I love this pillow. And if I love it, I who live in the country, I can only imagine how other people in other settings might love the scent of earth at the ready, packaged neatly and freely evoking thoughts of earth’s predictable-yet-always-slightly-different cycles, of forest filled with boundless unseen dramas, of blessed, beautiful trees with fluttery leaf dances so high up.

I wonder how a pillow like this strikes a person who lives near the sea, where saltiness would pervade the air, water would predominate the landscape and the rushing, ebbing, flowing tides, rustling dune grasses and hungry shore birds would replace the forest sounds. The waterfront scene is as lovely as the forest, some would say as lovely as the sea of waving grass in the plains or the jagged, white peaks of high mountains. All these places can be our connection to earth, to the intelligent design it presents, to things we often hardly give thought to – how magical and majestic are these natural wonders, how awesome and complex is the schematic that includes all the moving parts of this picture, how utterly spectacular is a sky that is different every single sunset and sunrise.

What do people do who do not have the natural world in their everyday life? I don’t mean you have to have a forest around you or a vast body of water in your sightline. I mean just a piece of nature, like Rachel’s pawpaw trees.

Once I had guests at the cottage, parents and two middle-school-age daughters. As we were exploring the garden, the mother said, “Girls, this is nature.” To me, quietly, she said, “The closest we get to nature is the fruit bowl on the counter.”  Oh, dear, can this be true?

Maybe nature – the wondrous creation of things not-man-made – doesn’t speak to other people the same way it speaks to me. Maybe I just want to think it has a lot to say if only we hear and listen, look and see, touch and feel. The older I get, the more I think there’s more to everything than we can ever know, and that makes it not only endlessly unboring, but also ever able to teach us something new, something we need to know, something that helps or serves something else. Maybe I just hope it.