Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014: Dirt Edition

An embarrassment of “years in review” this time of year. Have some more.

An exchange with a friend this afternoon about putting things in dirt. As in planting stuff, hiding dead bodies, or time capsules. Banter about how those things are similar in intended effect (sometimes). It was silly and wonderful.

These are my personal things from this past year that I would like to bury deep, somewhere. I would prefer you not to know these. Like Grover with the monster at the end of the book, WHY DO YOU KEEP SCROLLING DOWN??!

1/23/14            Met Gary Paul Nabhan, aka Brother Coyote. An architect of the Local Food Movement, author of Coming Home to Eat. Forgot all my big words, regardless, he was nice. Feed that night all the nitrogen and water it wants.

2/16/14            Traveled an ocean to an anxious and homesick friend. It was hard to do (work, family, life, money). Months later, my friend tells me we are no longer friends because I couldn’t visit sooner.

I want to bury that loss so I never feel it ever again. I’m sorry things were hard, friend. I did my best.

4/11/14            Watched the person I’ve known the longest (outside of blood-family) marry in beautiful Hawaii. Dug my toes in the sand. Forgave myself gluten and ate all the pancakes. Did not die. But boy was I puffy.

(In December, I will repeat this behavior in New Orleans with croissants. I am insensitive to my sensitivity. Or making dumb choices.)

5/1/14              Asparagus finally pokes up on the same day that two students complain that their final grade was too high. Something magic in them there dirt.

7/18/14            First major feedback on my dissertation. My project is called “elegant.” Take that word, seal it in a diamond, swallow it. Every now and then let it shine behind my smile. Sometimes it will burn like frostbite.

10/27/14          Made a Halloween costume, a sequined dress. Painted on Julia Roberts lips. Behind this costume is a woman deeply proud of attending sewing camp as a tween. At the time, however, I wanted to crawl under rocks.

11/7/14            Lovely, redemptive, trip to Atlanta. My last trip to Georgia was to bring my Grandmother up to live in New York, and for her coda. Train trip from hell, it was. Being a bone collector is humbling, hard and sickening.

12/6/14            New Orleans. Once, I dated a bad man that had an underage prostitute in this city. My stomach turned, immediately, I turned him out. My turning stomach resisted one position in this city. If she is still alive, she would be in her 20’s now.

Who ever you are, I am sorry. I wish you peace, and I wish him and whoever put you there deep down into a dark pit. The things I want to bury, are different from yours.

1/1/14              I read 138 books (for fun) in 2014 (mind you, I’m writing from the future now). The first book of the year will be Paulo Neruda’s Full Woman, Fleshy Apple, Hot Moon. Another friend advised me toward this choice over others, exalting, ‘begin the year with love.’


Bury love with the bodies, bury the bodies with love. Plant all the things with love, even if the things aren’t things that grow. Begin the year the way we must begin everything.  

Xu Bing. Genius.

Taste Buds and Molecules:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

DIY Dirt Cheap Holiday Gift Guide


Don’t bring a tired DIY Mason Jar Gift that’s been over pinned on pinterest! Whether it’s a Xmas, Hannakah, Winter Solstice, or an Evil Dead Watching party, I have got you covered with these unique and thoughtful suggestions. This holiday season, give the gift of earth.

These DIY Handmade gifts all require a Mason Jar and some soil. However you adapt them is up to you!

Top 5 DIY Gifts:

1.       Gluten Free Mud Pie.

Everyone is going gluten-free these days. Give the gift of pastries from a simpler time with a lovely pre-mixed mud pie in a Mason Jar. This gift will stand apart from all the hot-cocoa-in-a-jars and brownie-mix-in-a-jar that philistines always bring to holiday parties.


Step one. Fill a Mason Jar with soil (or dirt. Your choice.).

Step two. Close the Jar.
Step three. Attach a decorative recipe card (reading “mix with water and pour into pie tin. allow to bake in the sun until set.”).



2.       Magic Soil.

A perfect gift for the hipster, Millenial, or “Water World” fan in your life.


Step one. Fill a Mason Jar with soil (or dirt. Your choice.).
Step two. Close the Jar.
Step three. Explain to the recipient that the soil becomes dirt once it’s brought inside,
and changes back to soil again when it is outside. Brilliant!



3.       Mud Bath.

Nothing says “You mean the world to me, dirty lady/gentleman,” like the gift of a romantic, soothing Mud Spa without the pomp and annoyance of going to a fancy spa.


Step one. Fill a Mason Jar with soil (or dirt. Your choice.).
Step two. Close the Jar.

Step three. Put a label on the jar.
Step four. Write: “pour into running bath water. Adjust temperature to preference.”


4.       All-Natural Air Freshener


The holiday season can be an overwhelming cornucopia of scented candles with names like “pumpkin latte spiced crab cakes,” and “cinnamon sticky buns of steel.” Don’t bring a soy-wax monstrosity. Bring an all natural, clean scent of joy.


Step one. Fill a Mason Jar with soil (or dirt. Your choice.).
Step two. Close the Jar.
Step three. This gift is self explainatory. The recipient will know to open the jar to unleash the earthy –freshness.

*variation: for you Christian friends, just add some hay to make it a Manger-scented Soil Air Freshener!



5.       Donation in the Name Of.

Charities are plagued by too much money throughout the year—but the problem increases during the holiday season. What they do not get enough of is, actually, useful items.

To really make a gesture, pick a charity that really makes you feel feelings (feelings may include nausea, frustration, rage and disappointment), and donate this useful gift in the name of a special someone.

And don’t be a scrooge! Charities aren’t the only groups to consider. Think community groups (like the Westboro Church), former lovers (especially if it’s a jennifer-brad-angelina situation), or those that compete with your own business ventures. Get Creative!



Step one. Fill a Mason Jar with soil (or dirt. Your choice.).
Step two. Close the Jar.
Step three. Mail to the organization of your choice with a lovely note explaining that
it is from your friend. Make sure to include their contact information, home address,
and social security number/criminal record if possible.



Any of these gifts are sure to amaze. Trust me, I’m going to be a doctor.
(Note: under no circumstances do anything that this blog post recommends. At best, the gift recipient will be annoyed at you, and at worst you could be facing federal charges (probably) due to all the provisions in the Patriot Act. Especially for gift #5. Use your judgment and don’t give any of these gifts.)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Soil and Seizure

Let’s revisit cow poop.

In an earlier post (“Soil vs. Sadness” ) I mused on Mycrobaccterium vaccae—bacterium found in soil, originating in cow dung and that may be helpful in fighting depression. That was back in the beginnings of Ferguson. After the latest non-indictment, I want some Mycrobaccterium vaccae more than ever.

On the other hand, I want to make sure that cow crap doesn’t steal the spotlight. Dung of all kinds has had an important historical presence in American life. It would be myopic to tip a hat to only the bullshit in America.
Particularly in politics and policies, poop has had an important role. There’s lots of crap for us to consider. I shit you not. For serious. Hear me out.
Take, for example, the Guano Islands Act of 1856. In the 1850’s America was all about the magic of bird and bat crap. ‘Merica passed an Act allowing us to take any guano from any unpopulated (unaffiliated with a government) island.
This happened on over 100 islands. We could also kinda sorta take the island along with the guano. Kevin Underhill argues that this particular piece of history is important in that it helped set precedents for appropriation or seizure of “unincorporated areas” or “insular areas.”

This is still on the books. It affects Haiti.

That’s not all. This history of “bring on the poop! We need more poop!” led to our chemical fertilizer mindset. Years later we call chemical farming “conventional farming,” and nonchemical farming “organic.” These words don’t make sense. That’s a smaller, yet significant, ripple from the Guano Islands Act.

Furthermore, the science behind Interstellar that scares me is about the desertification of soil. Whether or not the 5th dimension is a load of crap isn’t really the point. WHY DOESN’T SOME BLOGGER WRITE ABOUT THE HISTORY OF COLONIALISM, POOP, RACISM and CHEMICAL FERTILIZERS IN THAT MOVIE? IS THAT NOT A RELATIVE DIMENSION TO THE FILM?

So why not pay attention to the shape of the dung shaped laws. The dung shaped stuff shapes other things, too. Let’s think about their histories, and where we’ve spread them. Sometimes the things at the heart of it are a load of crap. Literally.

More on the Guano Islands Act:

My puppy with bird guano on his head. Unstaged, untouched, and uncensored:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving Loam

                                     “Loam can be topsoil, but not all topsoil is loam. 
                                                           Topsoil is about location. 
                                                                       Loam is about composition.”   

Teenagers are stupid. I don’t know why they get cursed with both angsty-hormones and incomplete knowledge. 

My particular brand of white, teenage, angst developed around the general concerns in the air. The System, The Man (his evil boss, The White Man), and identity categories. 

I spent my angsty-years in a small town bordering an Indian Reservation. I didn’t have a lot of friends in High School (from the town, the Rez, or otherwise).  I didn’t know much of my surroundings. It took me thirteen years post-High School to ever actually go to the Rez.

I do remember I-81 being shut down, a building or two burning down, the ever-changing graffiti on the billboard, learning about AIM during gym class. I saw these things. 

I like to think that I would have automatically known that the blue guys in “Avatar,” and the mud people in “The Lord of HE WENT TO JARED!” movies rely on regressive native stereotypes. 

Or that I would have watched things in Ferguson with the same heart.

I like to hope I would have been smart enough as a teenager to figure out the messed-up-ness of Columbus Day, no matter where I was living. But I doubt it. Columbus Day hurts my heart and my head (in that order).

Thanksgiving, alternatively, hurts my head first, then my heart. I love that the Thanksgiving story of first contact is about helping immigrants, and feeding them when they needed help. I hate that the Thanksgiving story of first contact has highly limited contemporary application.

I love Love LOVE a secular holiday set aside for being thankful and grateful. I hate Hate HATE that it exists to revise the myth of this land is your land, this land is my land.

For a blog about Soil, I have to tell my story about Land.  It is all I can do to not make a Dawes Act piñata, or a Manifest Destiny punching bag. Bite the curb, Andrew Jackson G-I-Joe. 

In a blog post for Thanksgiving, I have to give thanks for everything I learned in that land. I know enough to know that clichéd trope #1 (as explained by post-colonial theory) happens when; “white people credit exoticized or native areas for self-discovery.” Yes, that I what I'm doing here. And still, anything less would be vulgar.  

I am so thankful that I lived where I did, because my particular patina of angst still remains. I never felt like part of the place there. I rarely feel like part of a place, no matter where I’ve been. Franz Fanon, Andurhati Roy and Ward Churchill explain this in ways I find more accurate. 

Only as an adult do I have the awareness to understand that I wasn’t the only one that felt that way. That so many still do. Teenage hormones aren’t the cause. Nothing about being human is simple. 

I’m thankful for what I learned because of the land I lived on. I’m grateful to be less stupid. Thank you to everyone (my parents included) that put up with me as a teenager. Now let’s all hold our chins up, set the gloves down, and go read some Mary Brave Bird.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The Top 5 Books I’m thinking about this week:
5. Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer
4. Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony
3. Gerald Vizenor’s Bearheart
2. Leanne Howe’s Shell Shaker
1. Gordon Henry’s  The Light People

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dirty Jokes

Soon I’m heading off to the American Humor Studies Association conference. Hello New Orleans, I will eat my way through you like a mouse in a baguette! I’m presenting a paper on Stand-up Comedy post- 9/11. (I promise that one of these days I will devote a blog post specifically to what I actually do.)

We all know what dirty jokes are. They are the ones that you don’t; tell your mother (hi Mom!), or post on social media where your supervisor might see them (good evening Professor Wilder, and anyone that will make future decisions about my professional life!).

Like this one:

                Want to hear a dirty joke?

                                John fell in the dirt.

                Want to hear a clean joke?

                                John took a bath with bubbles.

                Want to hear a dirty joke?

                                Bubbles is a hooker.

The overarching theory of comedy for at least a century is the asymmetry theory. From Joseph Boskin’s book, this states that humor results from the resolution of two asymmetrical meanings.

 In the case above, asymmetries are between; dirt-as-in-soiled and dirt-as-in-illicit, bubbles-as-soapy-things and bubbles-as-a-sex-worker, innocence and NSFW-content. We could go on.

In The Humor Code, the authors explain another emerging theory of humor—a theory of benign violation. This explains that humor happens when transgressions are made safe. They use the example of Sarah Silverman being able to get away with incest jokes because she’s just so darn cute. This is also how bigots often justify hate-speak. They say, “Oh lighten up, it’s just a joke!”

In the dirty Bubbles joke, the transgression is in being with a hooker, and it’s made acceptable by the context of an innocent bubble bath. Another transgression is that the jokes moves back and forth between “appropriate” and “inappropriate” rhetoric.

Consider the next example:

                What do you call a chicken that crossed the road, rolled in dirt, and came back?

                                A dirty, double-crosser.

Sure, it’s a groaner. But it also shows that the theory of acceptable-transgressions need not only apply to transgressive—or dirty—jokes. The chicken joke works because it transgresses from the standard form of “why did the chicken cross the road?” jokes. It’s made acceptable through the logic of puns.

And for a final joke:

                Why was the compost upset?

                                Everyone treated her like dirt!

It is transgressive to anthropomorphize compost. To treat a person-like thing “like dirt” relies on the idiom of “treating someone like dirt” equaling “treat someone poorly.” It’s made acceptable because compost doesn’t really have feelings (even if a previous post might suggest otherwise:

As both a humor of soil geek, this is funny to me, because we would NEVER treat compost the way we would treat dirt! Compost is special, and it keeps dirt happy and healthy! We love you compost, we would never treat you that way…..

The joke makes me sad, too.  I envision a pile of compost with big Miss Piggy fake-eyelashes and big, crocodile tears. Our culture does treat dirt like dirt. We hardly know what compost is! We overuse and abuse dirt. We dump crap in it that will never ever decompose or go away. 

I wonder, how does the form of transgressive humor help us think through our own transgressive behaviors? Is the idea of making-transgression-acceptable right for a culture that is largely okay with ecological transgressions? I have no good answer. Maybe I’ll learn it all in New Orleans.

In the meantime, this is one of the comedians I’ll be discussing at the conference:
Maz Jabroni:


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dormant Dirt

              “Suspend your fear of dirt and all those things we can’t see without our eyes a minute”

                                                                        Maria Rodale, Organic Manifesto

Long ago, and in a place very far from here, there lived a young couple. They were both tremendously poor, and they—or rather, one of them was pregnant. She had cravings, as pregnant women reportedly do. But not cravings of pickles and ice cream.

With the hunger of a thousand mouths, she craved radishes. The only place that was on the bus line, open at that time, and sure to have radishes, was Whole Foods. And their radishes were too expensive.  

“You know,” she spat, “you sound just like one of those entitled d-bags that would rather save for an xbox than buy real food. Just like Maria Rodale writes in The Organic Manifesto, ‘Sometimes I think the people who complain about Whole Foods don’t remember what it was life before Whole Foods’!!!! That’s on page 129, you poor fool.”

So, out he went for organic, local, non GMO, hormone-free, grass fed, free range, happy radishes. He ruminates about the economy, his inability to provide properly, the state of agriculture in America, and other sad things.

He finds himself at his favorite spot to have a wander and a think--the community garden in the good part of town. They don’t have a membership, they think they could not afford it. His armchair-Marxism stirs inside his red red blood. Community Gardens for the Community!

Guided by the light of his refurbished iphone, he weaves through the carefully tended allotments. He crunches through kale and kohlrabi, and clomps through cabbage and collards. At last! A patch of pert, green, prickly pony tails spilled from tiny pink scalps.

Gritty and chilled, he wanders home with full arms. All aglow, his wife alternates between crunching on the red gems and kissing his frozen fingers. They lay in bed happy and tingly from the bounty.

They feast on radish greens with gas station bacon and syrupy balsamic, mini-radish latkes, mayo-slathered radishes, tuna-radish salad, radish puree on cornmeal mush, radish greens gratin, and boxed wine poached radishes. This last one is horrid, but she loves the taste without the threat of alcohol.

It is a radish wonderland. Well, until it is not. One night in the midst of his gleaning, a bony hand digs into the scruff of his neck and grinds his face into the mud. Through dirty, broken teeth, he appeals to logos, pathos and ethos. He explains himself to yellowed eyes shining angry in the dark.

We know how the story ends. The master of the bony hand and angry eyes promised the poor man all the radishes he wanted for the duration of the pregnancy—with the caveat that one day She would come to him with a demand that he would not refuse.

The child is born, and named “Rapunzel,” a take on the Latin, “Raphanus sativus,” aka radish. We know she is taken, kept in a tower, something about Stevie Nicks-long hair, and a chivalric rescue. None of that is the point.

The moral of the story comes at the beginning. Be careful about your commitments. Once you start something, it must be finished. Remember that which has gone dormant. Remember this as we head into winter.

It’s a story I think about as I pull radishes from my front porch pots, and as I shirk my weekly blog commitment. Writers know the feel of bony hands on our scruff. We know the feeling of mud in our mouths. Forgive us our lapses and, for good or bad, in the presence of dormant things.


For more on the origins of the Rapunzel story:

The Organic Manifesto:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dirty Books

This week marks a momentous moment in the journey of my year. This week I began Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. This book is the 100th book that I’ve read in 2014. Yes, I am a word nerd. Yes, there are disclaimers to this measurement. I will list them now:

First, I have “read” more than 100 books since January 1st, 2014. But I consider these 100 to be “pleasure reading” rather than reading for work, albeit those lines blur more than Robin Thicke blurs grammatical rules. Secondly, I count audiobooks as Reading. If you have a problem with that we can deal with you later.

From this centipedial composite of stories, I have picked what I consider to be the Top Ten Dirtiest Books. In no particular order, I will list them now…

Darcy’s top ten dirty books from her first 100 books of 2014:
10. The Poisonwood Bible. Barbara Kingsolver
9. The Emperor of All Maladies: a Biography of Cancer. Siddhartha Mukherjee
8. Lean in. Sheryl Sandburg
7. Room. Emma Donoghue
6. What Maisie Knew. Henry James.
5. The Help. Kathryn Stockett
4. Hyperbole and a Half. Allie Brosh
3. Summer House with Swimming Pool. Herman Koch
2. Notes of a Native Son. James Baldwin
1. Fun Home. Alison Bechdel

By dirty books I mean books that, in one way or another, bring me back to my originary and beloved definition of the difference between “soil” and “dirt.” Soil is when it’s outside, dirt is when it’s inside.
These Dirty Books deal with the beauty, paradoxes and traumas (mostly traumas) that result from bringing something (or someone) from the periphery to the center.

For The Help it is that famous special pie. That pie that shouldna never ever been put in one’s mouth. That pie of protest and revenge for being told ‘You don’t belong inside. You are dirty.’ Or for The Emperor of All Maladies, it is writing the biography of the thing, the terrible awful, of when bodies go rogue and make inside what Should Not Be. 

Lean In tells women to Be The Dirt, put yourself at the center of the boardroom where you’ve been told you don’t belong. Sure, there might be consequences, but you can negotiate your way out of being untouchable. Just make sure you have a supportive partner, and have a career in corporate America—not on the bottom two thirds of the employment ladder…. Notes of A Native Son would put Lean In on the same shelf with Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I think I would literally do that had I not borrowed Lean In from the library…..

The Poisonwood Bible has the dirt of the destructive and abusive colonial projects, and those sins of the fathers dirty a family. Fun Home gets to the core of the family dirt—when your family treats you like dirt, the thing that doesn’t belong, the thing that needs to be cleaned. What Maisie Knew shows us when a family treats a child like a dirty bomb. Hyperbole and a Half shows us treating The Self like that. 

Summer House With Swimming Pool and Room are different. They tackle containment of that which threatens to return to the periphery, in one way or another, for better or worse.

Sigh. Do you have any idea how hard it is to have good ethics and avoid spoilers!?! There’s so much more to say about all of these books. Read them all! Even Lean In!

There are many “obvious” choices that I kept off the top ten list. By obvious choices, I mean books dripping with soil, like: Kimball’s The Dirty Life, Mud Season, Second Nature, Dissident Gardens,…. Or the other side of the dirty, dripping coin: Savage Love, Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man, My Horizontal Life, The Abstinence Teacher…..

Point is, writing that celebrates interfaces is writing I want to celebrate. Furthermore, I want to celebrate reading a crap load of awesome books. 

Here's #101:

For a complete list of what I’ve read this year, check out my board on pinterest. I won't remember unless I pin them!

I got 9/10 one of these books from my library. Support Libraries, whether they catalog seeds or books!