A couple of years ago, a student gave me a miniature potted plant with tiny yellow roses on it. I put it on the window sill above my kitchen sink and promised myself to water it dutifully, and rotate it every few days to face the sun. 

That lasted about a month. Life took off as if shot out of a cannon, and most of the time I forgot about taking care of the plant (maybe I didn’t wash the dishes often enough to see it!). A few of the roses fell off as the soil started to dry up, but it kept growing and leaning towards the sun. A couple of weeks rolled by, all the blossoms fell off, the dirt became harder and drier, and then it started to pull away from the inside of the pot. However, the leaves stayed green and were leaning way over towards the sun.

One day I noticed that the dirt had dried up so much that when I lifted the tiny leaves a little, the entire plant came out of the pot with the now marble sized clump of dirt clinging to the roots. I felt remiss (ya think?), so I finally added some water. The dirt thinned out and started to disappear, and so did the leaves. My once beautiful miniature rose plant was circling the drain. I then remembered seeing an old bag of potting soil in the garage, so I grabbed a handful of dirt and pressed it into the pot around the roots. Gardening and landscaping have never captured my creativity.

Apparently, the dirt did the trick; the next morning the leaves were stronger! Each day, the plant grew stronger and more vibrant –- even now, tiny buds of new blossoms are starting to appear (yes, I did add water)!

So, what did this lesson in horticulture teach me?

Dirt is not simply a part of life that we must learn to tolerate. Plants have to fight their way up through the dirt in order to grow, bear fruit, AND to deepen their roots. We just get resentful at having to navigate our way through the dirty parts of life. It’s dark in the dirt, it’s silent, and we feel all alone. However, that’s when the actual growth starts. We are forced to dig down first so we can take root, like getting our footing, and then we can push up to burst through the surface. When we get yet another clump of dirt dumped on our heads, we don’t see that we’re actually getting stronger as we push it out of our way.

I think I should be thankful for the dirt, even though I HATE the dirt. If it weren’t for the dirt, we would all be weak and not bear any blossoms.

Dirt has nutrients that give plants life and health. Believe it or not, our kind of dirt has nutrients for us as well. It gives us the strength to move up by realizing how far down we need to have our roots.

God knows just where to plant us and which dirt will give us the strength we need to blossom and produce fruit. And that means OUR lives will plant a multitude of seeds in others, who will also grow, blossom and plant seeds.

None of us likes to deal with the dirt in our lives, so we try as hard as we can to avoid it. We are TAUGHT to avoid it. I hear dance instructors all over the country remarking how their students refuse to put in the true, consistent grunt work they need in order to achieve. With all of the conveniences in our lives, we have “convenienced” our kids into learning how to not deal with dirt. We can NOT just drink the water and avoid the dirt if we want to grow.

We can’t really avoid the dirt, can we? Since the world began, we still have life’s dirt. It’s resistance-training that has been tailor-made for us! Be thankful for the dirt. I confess, I NEVER eagerly welcome it with a smile on my face.  However, when we grow, we can then look down at where we started and see the dirt from a different view, and we realize it wasn’t as impossible to move through it as we thought it was. It forced us to keep reaching in the right direction.

Dance on.

Robin Conrad Sturm is the primary ballet instructor and Executive and Artistic Director of the Northern Virginia Dance Academy and the Asaph Dance Ensemble. Robin recently won InsideNoVa’s Best Author in Prince William honors and also writes a blog. Contact her at Northern Virginia Dance Ensemble: www.nvdance.net/ wp/ or call 703-330-5227.

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