Saturday, my sister Sarah Nell and I roamed about Hazlehurst exploring yard sales and gallivanting in general. We browsed the mission stores, bumped shoulders with other customers in the tight aisles, and patted small heads as they collided with us. I was amazed at the amount of business going on there. Everybody else in the county seemed to be there, too. I even saw a few Baxley folk. By 10:00 I gave up on the yard sales; the heat drove me inside. Enough shopping in the great outdoors in late June. Look for me again in late October. I wanted an air-conditioned store.
We found such a store and purchased some deep purple petunias, then went to Sarah Nell’s house to prepare some hanging baskets for her front porch. As we started to work in the back yard in the shade of a tree, I realized I’d forgotten my gloves and my tools.
“Do you have anything to dip this potting soil with?” I asked her. “Never mind. I’ll used this plastic saucer.”
I did use it for a few minutes and then discovered that my hands worked far better—much more efficiently for some reason—to scoop that black mixture from the bag to the pot. We worked in the dirt happily for the next 30 minutes or so, stopping only when the petunias sat in their new baskets. We then picked up our handiwork and headed for the front porch. That’s when I realized just how dirty my hands were.
“I will never get my hands clean in time for church tomorrow,” I moaned. “I see a lot of scrubbing in my very near future.”
Back when I was a child, I ate dirt with a spoon if I could slip one out of the kitchen. I really don’t remember, but I do remember the stories Mama and Daddy told me about it. I don’t eat it anymore, but I love the smell of freshly turned earth when Larry plows and of the rich loam beneath the oak trees when I lie in the hammock out there. There’s something wonderful about the smell when I kneel on the ground to pull weeds or to plant another flower in my beds.
I really don’t mind dirt on my hands; I do, however, want them clean for church.
Saturday night as I sat soaking in a tub of hot water and looking at my dirty hands, I thought about the very simple pleasures that we take for granted. Consider, if you will, our sense of smell. My friend Susan can’t smell anything. I once thought that a minor problem until one day earlier this spring. I had picked a creamy white gardenia from my huge bush out back and sniffed it all the way from the bush to the house as I walked toward the kitchen to find a vase. The gardenia’s heady aroma is like nothing else in the world. Sniffing it gave me instant pleasure. Suddenly, it struck me!
Susan can’t smell a gardenia or a rose. She can’t smell lemons or fresh cantaloupe. Imagine also the sweet smell of a baby fresh from its bath. She’ll never smell that again. Sadness overcame me at my friend’s disability. What a shame to be so deprived.
Sitting there in the tub, I squirted lavender soap on my hand brush and started to work on my nails. The lather hid the dirt, but I knew that it lurked deep under every nail and darkened every cuticle of every finger. Fortunately the rest of my body wasn’t quite so dirty as my hands; else I’d still be scrubbing.
The aroma of the lavender soap surrounded me as I scrubbed. It probably took as long to get that dirt off as it did to get it on there. As I sat in church this morning, I thought I glimpsed just a smidgen of dirt under that little finger nail on my right hand, but somehow I doubt that God minded very much. And at that point, I didn’t either.