This conversation is part of the Nature Series. TL;DR in this one: be like soil – staying grounded, resilient and helping others grow
This might sound icky, but hear me out.
Recently, I’ve really liked scooping soil with my hands in my tiny garden. And just dusting it off after.
Sometimes, it feels soft and fluffy. Other times, grainy. Usually, it’s slightly warm. There’s not much of a smell. But if you asked, I’d describe it as ‘earthy’.
I like that it comes in many shades, like human skin. I like that when I touch it, I have to be close to the ground. Lower. Slower. Calmer. But why does it feel like so?
A few years ago, someone reminded me of how similar we are to soil. We’re made of 70% water and so is the Earth, he said.
This speaker had left his corporate career to travel the world and while he travelled, he reflected and wrote. When he came back, he started Ground Up Initiative. He became the “Kampung Chief” because he saw the need for city-dwelling Singaporeans to connect to each other, the environment and good values.
It was a rustic space where volunteers could garden, share food, make woodwork and so much more. I loved it. And when we were in a small group just chatting, he shared that insight. I was intrigued because it was something that I learnt in my faith.
In Islam, humans are made of clay/soil/the ground. That’s why we return to it and are buried after we die. But in that connection, we also learn-
Some common qualities of the ground/soil & humans:
That we can either be nourished with nutrients to grow food and benefit others…
or we could be drained, dry and too infertile to grow much. It’s important to care for ourselves. Then, with recognition of the blessings we have, we give that to others.
That soil is low to the ground.
And perhaps that’s much more beneficial for us humans too. There are benefits to position, wealth, fame and influence. But as that gets us ‘higher’, the dangers increase too. Disconnection with others. Transgression of rights. False beliefs on happiness. The higher we go, the closer to the ground we need to be internally. Staying grounded humbles ourselves and our relationships with people too.
That soil is sturdy and resilient.
So when things get tough, perhaps like soil, we don’t “die”. Instead, we’re dormant. Attempts and failures are like the matter that is left to break down into nutrients. They nourish us. If there are seeds, they also lie deep within us. And when the rain comes, we flourish and grow.
Is soil still icky?
Because as city dwellers, it’s not something we hold often. We step on soil. We walk past it. And we take it for granted too. But what would it be like to connect to it and to stay grounded?
In the early days of Social Greens, we did environmental programmes with primary school students (like in the photo above with Madrasah Al-Maarif 11-year-olds, an all-girl madrasah). When we introduce soil to children, they often stand to the side grossed out. But with some encouragement, they began to touch and interact with it. To best use it, we have to relate to it. It was such a joy for me to see smiling faces and soil-filled hands -and then guiding the students to use the soil as a literal base to growing plants as food.
With all that we’ve reflected on, why not try to touch some soil?
Let us know how staying grounded feels. And your reflections 😉
P.S. I’ve also really enjoyed turning my food waste into compost. And to see it breakdown, become more uniform and just like soil many weeks after! But that’s another story. Would be happy to share if you want to hear it! If we do, we’ll update and link it here for you.