Oh, how I remember my father perched on the bouncing seat of his small yellow Oliver OC-3 caterpillar tractor, pushing and pulling levers as he cleared the first of our Alaskan mountainside homestead fields closest to our canvas Jamesway hut. Never idling, the motor varied in tone, pushing and heaving, shoving ahead of its flat blade living growth with earth attached that turned and churned and rolled into long heaping lines of windrows along the edges and down the center of the newly bared fields.
I played joyfully, climbing on them as they grew, exploring caves hollowed under tree trunks and branches and tangles of roots holding the earth together in gigantic clump bridges over my head. I found winding hallways, rooms and chambers I could crawl around in, sometimes sit in, and sometimes stand in, inside earth herself.
So sticky sweet the rich dark smell of that damp earth! It consumed me, entering the pores of my skin, becoming a part of my blood, my flesh and my bones. I tasted it. I breathed in the scent of that pure earth and exhaled it out again. I grew as I tasted it, not a taste from outside of me, but an inner taste as if my own insides had those same hallowed hollow spaces dripping with this black living earthy smell.
Before these days I had never experienced the rapture of a mother’s kind embrace. Now I was as a newly born infant again. I had no resistance to the ecstasy of this welcoming earth being offered to me. As I played there was no past or future; only a continuing blissful present filled with sensual exploration and dirty delights. Not a giddy joy with a beginning, middle or end. No, this was eternal. I was given and I received a permanent sense of rightful belonging. Not transitory. Not anything that could be removed from me by distance in time or space or that could evaporate or wash off or out of me.
Although of course I had no words to use back then in thoughts about this. To me I smelled, tasted, touched and was touched by the essential source of life and love. Over fifty years later I can feel the effects of this pure joy. Climbing inside those freshly sculpted windrows changed me forever and healed me like few ever get to – or need to be.
Could a child, who was loved and happy before such an opportunity for transformation took place, ever feel that sustaining power of earth and respond to it as I did? Could a child never as lost as I was ever feel so found? I was being born in my play during those days when I was seven. I was old enough to remember. This vast goodness has never let me go and will not until the day my body returns again to that sweet, sweet smell of earth.