CIRS Blog about Rural California
Alix Blair received her Masters from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, where she studied soil ecosystems and the intersections of human rights and the environment. Her research took her to southwestern Uganda where she interviewed women farmers about the impact of mountain gorilla conservation on their daily lives. Alix is also a documentary filmmaker, radio producer, and photographer. You can find out more about her here: alixblair.com
Alix Blair: Book Review
Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth by William Bryant Logan.
W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1995.
William Bryant Logan’s book Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth is a 202-page love song to the soil. Logan’s book is made up of multiple styles: part scientific fact, part narrative storytelling, part poetry, part history-lesson.
Logan’s writing is beautiful, meditative, metaphor-full, and poetic, filled with lyrical connections between surprising thoughts. He uses soil as the connective thread to examine multiple, immense ideas, many verging on discussions of the meaning of life.
To give an example of his style of writing, in taking on the beginning of life on earth (no small subject), Logan writes, “life is the story of bodies that learned to contain the sea…when you look for a creature to match the range of motion of the human hand, you find yourself back with the wiggling orange filaments of fungi and the gesture of acclamation of a spreading bacterial branch” (11,13).
Moving from the beginning of life, he takes on death in graphic detail in the chapter The Soil of Graves writing, “so in the end the tomb is empty, and human forms have been changed into apple forms. The soil of graves is the transformer. It is natural magic. The grave is a memory from which the story of the Earth is told” (57).