We Are Walking Trees and Floating Plants Made of Grist From the Mills of God
The title of this post is paraphrasing a quote from one of my favorite passages
of all time of this year. The passage I have excerpted below was written by American naturalist John Burroughs, pictured here. This was a man who truly knew how to observe nature by removing all the crap that filters the lens through which we perceive the world. And boy-o-boy could he write! If you’re new to John Burroughs I suggest picking up John Burrough’s America: Selctions from the Writings of the Naturalist John Burroughs. I have several of his books, but this one is my favorite because it does a great job of compiling some of his best writings. There is also a great forward by his son Julian Burroughs, and an introduction with fascinating biographical info about John Burroughs.
Without further fanfare, here’s the quote that I wanted to share…
We are rooted to the air through our lungs and to the soil through our stomachs. We are walking trees and floating plants. The soil which in one form we spurn with our feet and in another take into our mouths and into our blood — what a composite product it is! It is the grist out of which our bread of life is made, the grist which the mills of the gods, the slow, patient gods of Erosion, have been so long grinding — grinding probably more millions of years than we have any idea of. The original stuff; the pulverized granite, was probably not very nourishing, but the fruitful hand of time has made it so. It is the kind of grist that improves with the keeping, and the more the meal worms have worked in it, the better the bread. Indeed, until it has been eaten and digested by our faithful servitors the vegetables, it does not make the loaf that is our staff of life. The more death has gone into it, the more life comes out of it; the more it is a cemetery, the more it becomes a nursery; the more the rocks perish, the more the fields flourish. This story of the soil appeals to the imagination. To have a bit of earth to plant, to hoe, to delve in, is a rare privilege. If one stops to consider, one cannot turn it with his spade without emotion.