She wasn’t really exposed to dirtiness, in all its glory, until the summer she went to farm camp. During morning chores, her boots were caked with a mixture of mud and manure, and she began to feel naked if her fingernails were clean of dirt. This new found love of all things unclean rocked her world – there was no going back to life before dirt. She returned and returned again to that earth which introduced her to the sweat and blood of living things. Eventually, she grew older, thought herself wiser, and decided traveling was for her. That first summer of travel, another dirty one, found her in the cool tundra of the Alaskan wilderness, digging through layers of moss and roots and sod to find precious unbreakable clay. It will limit erosion, she was told, but all that motivated her was the smell of composting peat in the air and the occasional tinge of wildfire smoke on her hair. Homecoming that first summer was like slipping into an ice bath. From the almost constant warmth of the arctic July sun to suburban streets crawling with high heels and doggie bags, she was shocked. Eventually, though, she conformed and became one with the plastic bag, held her breath and waited for the next chance for adventure. In the plastic bag world she felt ashamed of her somewhat dirty appearance, never quite fitting into the expectations of her peers, never knowing if she was being judged for eating her lunch outside or planting a garden. She reconciled these feelings by escaping the brick confines of her high school when the ground was covered in white snow and driving out to the places with trees and underbrush.
The next adventure took her closer to home, in the White Mountains, where she dealt once more in living things. She learned to love chickens in their strange behavior. And to love like the wind, always present but only dangerous when the potential is realized. She was reawakened, rejuvenated, and she rejoiced in the confusion, instability, and uncleanliness of love. Eventually, a third adventure came her way, one more people oriented, where sometimes her spirit was dried from talking all day. But when that happened, she would go into the goat pen and feel the soft short hair under their chin as they looked up at her with their rectangular pupils. As she held the stillborn lamb in her cold hands on that day in April, she knew even through the sadness, that this messy unclean life was for her. When in Ecuador on another adventure, she dug her hands into the warm dark earth and felt the soil breathe. She took this breath with her, kept it hidden in her lungs, to once again conform to the plastic bag world. She always has to return there, but keeps adventuring, keeps finding ways to run out to the soil. The adventures await her and all she knows is this: that they say the soil is alive, that it can breathe and eat. She knows this to be true because it awakened her at first touch.