I was planting apple trees yesterday: a Redcort, an Empire, and a Honey Crisp. The dirt smelled moist and mineral, like autumn, so rich and beautiful that I had a compelling urge to eat some. Maybe, I thought, we have it wrong when we tell our kids not to eat dirt and sand. Maybe it really tastes quite good. Maybe we have all been missing out on something our whole lives, training away an appreciation for a taste that we could share with the trees.
I remembered suddenly a passage in C. S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, where the moles are preparing dishes from different types of earth and feeding them to the dryads. Lewis describes the confections made from loam and sand, some looking almost like chocolate. I have always liked that part of the story, but being surrounded by the smell and feel of dirt for much of yesterday afternoon made me appreciate it a little differently. I was not taken away by it so much as to actually taste the earth myself, but I could no longer see the dirt as anything but food, maybe not for me, but for something else, and I could not resist the strange sensation that I was digging in a kind of arboreal kitchen, a chef preparing a feast for my newly planted trees.