Here is a flash, for gardeners and robins alike.
The soil smells like certainty. She knows she’s supposed to have given up this need for certainty. It is, so they tell her, a terribly un-evolved thing, the need to be certain. That all the very best people have learned to live in the moment and run up overdrafts and break people’s hearts. That the authenticity of life is in the beat of the light on the grass right now, not some grass she remembers on a beautiful day in another year when she could laugh and her hips didn’t ache.
The first spit she turned brought a perfect worm, a baby-pink ampersand. It dug itself back inside, quick. Of course, the earth isn’t certain. There’s erosion – sometimes very fast and vicious. The whipping of top soil in turning air. The ripping of the whole, living layer of it. Like the dustbowl in depression America. Like the poor bastards trying to survive on the edge of the ever-expanding Sahara today. A blank where their crops should be.
Not here, though. She turns another spit. Not now. You’ve got this, damp, moist-enough stuff. The chalk, the bones of the long-dead things, it’s not far down, that’s true. But it is absolutely, truly, enough, this earth. And you really, truly have it – full of beetles and strange things in shiny pupas. She pauses to swig some tea. Mucky hand-print on white mug. There you go. Evidence. Proof. Right in the tiny grooves of your skin.
The robin has been watching the whole business from the cherry tree. His bird brain flickers,
Is that enough reallys and trulys for you? Is that enough comfort?
He isn’t judging, not really, because, after all, he’s a bloody Christmas card-gracer, fork handle-percher of a bird. He likes the humans and their admiration, their tradition. Even their faith. But he lives out here with cats, North-Easterlies, half an inch of ice over the winter pond. It gives him a different perspective. He flexes a wiry foot. He pushes the tip of his chisel beak into the down of his chest and skewers a tiny mite.
The mite is snuffed. Just a shift into blackness from the dull grey fog of barely here anyway. But still, an ending. She doesn’t know that, of course. Blissful. Unaware. The robin flies away and she stands, admiring the certainty of her soil.