I grew up in rural Southern Indiana. I was a t-shirt and jeans kind of gal. I loved being outside. The Purchasing Department was on the 3rd floor of the TJX building - a beautiful building, but too sterile for my tastes. At the time I lived in a 3rd floor garret apartment too. Far removed from the ground on both parts, I was feeling quite disconnected.
When I feel this way I have the urge to stand outside barefoot and envision the Earth beneath my feet in a cut-a-way view where I can see the strata below me. I start down through my soles, to the grass, to the roots, to the dirt – down and down until I finally feel grounded. It’s always been my way of getting back to center.
On this particular morning I was desperately missing dirt; the smell, the feel, the texture. I was sitting in my cubicle when Ellie Feldman came by to say hello.
Ellie was a great person - full of fun and joy and laughter. She had a quick smile and sharp wit and beautiful red hair, which exemplified her personality perfectly.
“You know what I miss,” I said to her, “I miss dirt!”
“Funny you should say that,” she said. “This morning I went to my Grandmothers grave to plant some flowers. When I was done I noticed I had dirt under my fingernails. I was going to clean them, but I decided not to. I wanted to leave it as a reminder of what I did this morning.”
It was obvious Ellie loved her grandmother very much and deeply missed her.
Then she showed me her hands. A fine line of dirt traced beneath her nails. We smiled at each other in that knowing kind of way that says, “I understand exactly what you mean.”
And you know what? Whenever I’ve been working in the yard and I go to wash the dirt from under my fingernails, or I feel disconnected and I need to get to some dirt in a hurry . . . I think of Ellie Feldman and that moment we shared at TJX.