Piles of Dirt
May 26, 2009

There was little more fascinating to me as a kid than a simple pile of dirt. Now I'm not talking Mom-sweeping-the-floor dirt. I'm talking a nice, solid mound at least 3-4 feet high.

Oh, who am I kidding? Even today there is little that will spark my imagination faster than a pile of dirt.

During my lunch hour now, I leave the building and make a quick jaunt to a little subdivision on the edge of Northern Indiana farmland. The subdivision has just four streets so far - two "horizontal" and two connecting "vertical" streets - and maybe as many as a dozen houses, but I doubt there are even that many. It is, I suppose, a victim of our current economy and the housing bubble gone POP.

It's the perfect lunch sanctuary here.

field

I come out here and park the car at the end of an unfinished vertical street, and stop just as the pavement turns to gravel and then dirt. And I face this large meadow to my left and a small line of windbreak trees before me. Just to right there is a huge old tree and I hope they never tear it down just to put another crappy little house up.

And as much as I love trees, and as much as I love to feel the wind on my face, hear the birds and the grasshoppers and the screech of the occasional hawk, it is the simple piles of dirt which mesmerize me.

I look at them and I am instantly ten years old again. Those tire tracks are really desolate roads leading to the mountains and I can see my younger self kneeling in the dirt with absolutely no regard for my now decrepit knees or the pile of hardware that keeps my right leg together and also keeps it tender and stiff.

But there I am, knees grinding into the dirt tracks with my Fisher Price Adventure People action figures. The blue TV van and the green action sports van hurtling down the dirt roads, leaving their own tiny tracks behind in the soft, loose soil.

Fisher Price Adventure People HikersWe pull up to the base of the left-most mountain and the mountain climbers (Jan and a nameless red-headed bearded man in a red lumberjack-like shirt) clamber out of the back of the green van. The motorcross guy helps them with their gear - a climbing rope "backpack" and a "backpack" for their sleeping bags. And while the always nameless motorcross guy is helping them, his brother Joey is getting the motorcycle out of the van and prepping it. Joey will just watch from the sidelines today - his sports are parachuting and kayaking. Fisher Price did not make him with legs to bend at the knee so he could also ride the motorcycle, so in my world, Joey has had an accident which fused his knees. He fouled up a skydiving jump. His parachute is wrapped and ready to go, strapped in to the top of the van, but ... not today.

The mountain climbers begin their arduous trek up the piles of dirt. Throwing the climbing rope and labouriously ensuring that it's caught solidly before beginning the next part of their ascent. Jan, in her shorts, is particularly nimble whilst the poor bearded man is ... well ... a bit clumsy for a climber.

They make a brief rest camp and I climb to the top of the dirt pile and survey what dangers might lie ahead for them and Mr. Motorcross and wish for a tame creek - one I could bring my action figures' boats to and have them go scuba-diving without fear of the current stealing my toys with a minute's inattention.

For example, ants are now travelling over the abandoned Joey and I jump down to smush them because ants are evil and must all be smushed.

My younger self could happily play with my toys out here for a week and really not notice the passing of time as such.

Sadly, that was never allowed.

"You'll lose them."

"The other kids will break them or steal them."

"The other kids will laugh at you."

I didn't care then, but my mother did. I turned 11, 12, 13, 14 and then 15 and I still had not lost interest in my toys and my mother began to panic. She devised any excuse she could think of to disrupt my playtime ... although at 15 I called it storytime and used the toys to act out bits of novels I wrote during school. And finally, she forced me to sell them all.

I am convinced that were I plopped out there today with a tubload of those action figures and a guarantee that no one would see me or disrupt me, I could easily lose myself again - like a fade cut at the end of a movie when the main character finally gets what he wants and we're ready to assume that it all works out, and there are, in fact, no consequences beyond that moment of perfect contentment as the scene closes.

Unfortunately, this is reality and as I check my iPod's clock to see how I've managed to write all of this and NOT use up my entire lunch hour yet, the reality comes flooding back. The alarm went off fifteen minutes ago, but I had turned the external volume all the way down and forgotten. I convinced myself to trust the alarm and just keep writing instead of obsessively checking the time like I usually do. I am supposed to be clocking back in this very second.

I start the car and begin to back up, turn around and head back to the cubicle ...

... once again denying that kid a promising pile of dirt.

field

Posted by Red Monkey at May 26, 2009 5:26 PM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

 

otilius said:

Elegant and evocative post! We all have some deep feelings for dirt. We've probably all put some in our mouth at some point.

These days, my only dirt time comes when I can get off pavement and drive on dirt roads. Not any kind of Monster Truck or off-road maniac stuff, mind you. I just like the reality of the experience, getting off the grid a bit. At least, for now, there are some dirt roads left.

May 29, 2009 2:12 PM

 

otilius said:

Elegant and evocative post! We all have some deep feelings for dirt. We've probably all had some in our mouth at some point.

These days, my only dirt time comes when I can get off pavement and drive on dirt roads. Not any kind of Monster Truck or off-road maniac stuff, mind you. I just like the reality of the experience, getting off the grid a bit. At least, for now, there are some dirt roads left.

May 29, 2009 2:13 PM
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