Friday, May 25, 2012

Those Boxes Of Soil From Home

What is it in us -- what drive? -- that makes us want to fill up boxes of soil from our home and sleep in them? I know it's an odd question, because normally we just take it for granted that that's the way it is, simply what we do. There doesn't have to be a reason.

Still, I'm not ashamed to admit it -- in fact I'm a little proud -- that sometimes I question things and wonder why. I believe it shows I have an open mind, and hopefully you can agree that orthodoxies mean more to us when we periodically examine them, then embrace them afresh, giving them our own conscious assent. I used to ask the same things in church, wondering why we handle snakes and drink strychnine.

The thing with the boxes and soil, though, I think the answers are generally clear. We have a homing instinct, just as other creatures do. Pigeons, salmon, swallows, and the dam-building beaver, which famously prefers to chew trees from the land of its birth. But we human beings tend to range farther from our homes, not on a given instinctual path, taking road trips everywhere, jaunts, excursions, and cruises. I read something the other day that blew my mind, that people are taking more day trips, even exploring their own state, thanks to the higher cost of gasoline.

So we range afar, each going our own direction. But there's one thing we have in common: We prefer the soil of home! Meaning, of course, it can be something of a sacrifice, with the extra space it takes in our vehicles, to be transporting large quantities of the earth all around the country, and even around the world, but still we do it. Albeit in our own ways. I normally take it in a garment bag; I lay it out in the trunk, and if it's evenly spread, it doesn't take up much room. And I've gotten used to buying disposable cardboard sleeping boxes, which of course saves a ton of room as well.

I said, then, the drive was part of our homing instinct. But surely there's more to it, since so often we are not driven by pure instinct. And doing it by habit would be a given. I just think there have to be more conscious reasons as well. For me, and I've heard this all my life from others as well, I just have an easier time sleeping, knowing that soil from home, from my own yard, undergirds me. It looks familiar, it smells familiar, and it just feels better! Like a favorite pillow or piece of tree bark, you just like having it near.

Other than that, there's also the whole issue of our mortality. We're very strong with the conviction that if we die it should be at home. There's something unseemly -- this conviction runs deep -- about dying away from home. So dying in your sleep, lying there on a layer of your own soil, is the next best thing. I'm perfectly content with it. I can go to sleep every night, knowing that wherever I am and whatever happens, if I live or I die, it's my own soil I'm doing it on!

It's a great custom, if custom's the right word for it. And obviously it's going to continue, world without end, as long as we don't run out of soil. We love the old ways.

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