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Got dirt?

I'm hot. My face is streaked with dirt, fingernails caked with mud, knees grass-stained. My back aches, my arms burn. Sweat drips down my forehead, soaks my shirt. My hair is frizzy from the morning mist and drizzle. But...the scent of rosemary lingers in my nose. I am smiling ear to ear.

We just turned over our veggie garden, prepping it for planting. Although we'd borrowed a (very old) roto-tiller from our good friends -- the friends who time and again bail us out with our home and yard issues -- we just couldn't get the tiller moving long enough to actually turn the soil. So, we did it the old-fashioned way: hoe, rake, hands, back.

We pounded the hell out of the weeds with a hoe, hacked at and yanked up clumps of grass with an edger, evened it all out with the rake. Sweet Boy "saved" all the worms by lovingly picking them out of the earth, collecting them in a pile then moving them to the far edge under the tiny dogwood sapling (that has remarkably survived not only transplant but two seasons of ragged lawnmowing and a toddler). Big Daddy pointed out all things creepy and crawly, and the two boys marveled at spiders, potato bugs, a beetle, some kind of pupa, and even a small snake.

Later today we'll take our annual trip to the garden center to pick out our vegetable plants. We all love that trip. So many possibilities await in those tiny plants! Tomatoes and zucchini and peppers and string beans. Oregano and cilantro and basil and mint. It all tastes so much better in the heat of the summer sun, when you've picked it with your own hands right out of your own yard. This is the stuff I longed for all those years in apartments and condos...now I remember. And maybe this is, in fact, worth all the other hassles home ownership brings.

I feel indescribable joy when digging in the dirt. Maybe it's the nurture of tiny sprouts into full-grown food-bearing plants. Maybe it's the nostalgia, memories of sitting in Grampa's garden eating snap peas, Mom with salt shaker in hand for the juicy tomatoes she ate like apples off the vine. Maybe it's watching the wonder in my child's face when he sees the first zucchini squash, the excitment he exudes when we get home each day and race to the backyard to see what might have grown while we were gone. Maybe it's the associations: summertime, delicious food, relaxing afternoons on the deck. Maybe it's simply feeling part of the earth, connected. Whatever the reason, this small patch of ground in my backyard makes me happy.

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