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:


  1. Good stuff, Darcy. This was a great read. Keep 'em comin'!