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Season of Creation: Land (Marit Johnson)

Dust on the Prairie

Last week, even though I was standing on an elevated train platform, I felt the most connected to the land in a way I haven’t for a while. The sky was painted in watercolor hues of orange, pink, and yellow with purple clouds adding a tinge of mist. This reminded me of the fall harvest season back home in North Dakota.

When people learn I’m from North Dakota, one of the most common responses is, “It’s really flat there, right?” (Besides the “I’ve heard it’s really cold there.”) There’s a beauty and a stillness when you see the open prairie. There’s an energy when the wind rushes through and moves the grain. I can see for miles; I feel a lightness and openness in my chest. While I never grew up on a farm, many of my friends and family members did, so I was always surrounded by about harvest-time activities. My favorite part of harvest is to see the combines in action. As they drive across the field, you can see the header gathering the grain that is the food for our bodies. Food that the land nurtured to life. And from the back of the combine you see the chaff blowing out like clouds of dust into the sky.

Dust. I’ve always found “Ashes to ashes; dust to dust” very comforting. I think it comes from the first time I remember ever hearing the phrase. I was four-years-old. Standing out in a little country cemetery, surrounded by family and the open prairie, I watched as the pastor poured dirt onto my grandfather’s casket in the shape of a cross. “Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.” And as he poured the dirt, some of it went on the casket, but some of it blew away with the wind – just like the chaff that blew from the combine my grandpa drove.

We are all dust. We are all dirt. We are “adam” – earth creatures. This very dirt that God formed us from; this dirt that nourishes the plants God brings to life; this dirt that we harvest plants and raise animals from; this dirt that clings to our shoes; is the dirt where we shall one day return. This dirt – this land is our common connector. We all start out as dust, as dirt, and one day we will return and be reunited with those we hold dear. The next time you see wind blowing through the grass or dust blowing through the air, remember that you are “adam.” You are an earth creature. You are a part of the land.

-Marit Johnson

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