Life is a Highway



You get your hands in it
Plant your roots in it
Dusty head lights dance with your boots in it (dirt)
You write her name on it
Spin your tires on it
Build your corn field, whiskey
Bonfires on it (dirt)
You bet your life on it (yeah)*

Under my nails, on my skin and in my eyes. Kansas brown, Oklahoma red, garden rich and cemetery old. A tangible something that is joyful and somber all at once.


I sink my fingers into it to heal.
When I need to think.
When I don’t want to think.


Before I sat down to write this, I had just finished digging Yukon Gold and Idaho Blue potatoes. I drank up the aroma that use to mesmerize me as a little girl and was grateful for the soil and motion that effectively buried the stresses of the week. Much of my grade school garden time was spent yanking weeds and sniffing the earthy, clumpy wonder of nutrients that surrounded the healthy white roots. My dad and grandpa nurtured it while my mom chased it around with a broom in our living room.

It’s that elm shade red rust clay
You grew up on
That plowed up ground
That your dad
Damned his luck on*

As I got older, interests turned from playing make-believe out in the trees to teenage boys with shy glances and whispered sweet nothings. The significance of dirt took on a new meaning.

We cursed the windy days and swirling dust storms that messed with our carefully sprayed eighties hair. We draped our dirty toes outside the windows of pick-up trucks flying down fettered roads. Young lovers held hands on hidden, Sleepy Hollow trails and wrote forever promises on the ground with fingers and sticks.

Her blue eyed
Summer time smile
Looks so good that it hurts
Makes you wanna build
A 10 percent down
White picket fence house on this dirt*

When I asked my son to come dig in the garden so I could get pictures for this story, he wanted to know what it was about. When I told him the concept and title, he looked skeptical. When I asked if he understood metaphors, a look of understanding crossed his face and he obliged by diving in for the deepest roots and soaking in the scent through his nostrils. He is my boy.

It feels like I’m sitting in a cyclone of emotions as I recount the Life is a Highway series and think about the places we’ve traveled together. It truly is all about the journey doesn’t it? Point A, Point B and the dirt that accumulates in the creases of your knuckles or between the toes during an adventure. And we are always thankful to the people who dust us off on stormy days.

I don’t mind a little dirt. In fact, it’s the first thing I  reach for after a harsh winter, when too much time has been spent at a desk or my heart is heavy and my mind is racing. Dirt is the evidence that you dug the hole, made the promise and rubbed it on a wound when crying would have been easier.

What fun would a journey be if we didn’t get a little dirty?


You’ve mixed some sweat with it
Taken a shovel to it
You’ve stuck some crosses and some painted
Goal posts through it (dirt)
You know you came from it (dirt)
And some day you’ll return to*

*Florida Georgia Line – Dirt Lyrics

Please listen to the song when you have a chance. It’s their story of dirt than inspired mine.


This post marks the last in the Life in a Highway series. Special thanks to the guest writers who made this more meaningful and poignant than I could have ever imagined. You are welcome at my house any time…as long as you don’t mind a little dirt in the corners.

If you missed any guest posts, here they are in order of appearance:

Home is Where the Heart Is: Chad Parks

Whiskey Nights: Nicole Marie (note: Nicole was Freshly Pressed for this!!)

Mountain Mama: Beth Tehilo

Rest Stop Ahead: Deanna Herrmann

Vantage Point: Nadia

If you’re afraid of a journey, don’t buy shoes: Christy and Jennie

Thank you again to everyone for coming along on the trip. It’s always more fun when you’re with friends. xo

40 thoughts on “Dirt

  1. Love this post and that song. Dirt is therapeutic at times…annoying at others…but either way, I’m glad it’s here. You caught all the aspects of it so well in your writing. Beautiful!


    1. Thank you, Char…you are always so kind. You’ll be happy to know that right now I’m covered with it head to toe…had to get the last Idaho Blues out of the ground 😉


    1. You are most welcome, Mark. These pages were truly blessed with a great cast…I’m so happy to have so many wonderful stories in one spot.
      And, I’m still “sharing dirt” this morning…can’t seem to get yesterday’s job out from under my nails 😉


  2. Awesome post Michelle. So very true. I think more appreciated by some than others. I clearly recall many years ago when I was trucking, hauling fish from Trouty Newfoudland – a small outport at the end of a long dirt road. Two of us went in with two tractor-trailers in part for safety reasons: if one broke down at least we had help handy. It was a rainy season and the road was a mudhole. We got in, loaded and out without too much problem but our trucks were covered with mud. It was so thick that it was piled easily 4 inches high on top of the fuel tanks and the sides of the vehicle weren’t even visible under the mud. It was the dirtiest I had ever seen my truck. Only the wiper stroke area was visible of the windshield. We arrived at the ferry terminal to cross back to the mainland and a couple of young men (early twenties) came along with cameras. They were absolutely delighted by the mud and after taking oodles of pictures, asked us to raise the engine hoods so they could take pictures of the mud on the engine. I was curious and asked why they wanted to take pictures. It turns out they were model makers and they wanted the most realistic representaion of how mud accumulates so they could copy it on their truck models. Ha! They ignored all the other drivers with clean trucks and chose only ours to photograph. We were proud.

    Anyway, Mich, thanks for the post and thank you for the Life in a Highway Series. The final video was excellent – i enjoyed it greatly.


    1. What a cool story! I always love hearing about your trucking days. The time when you and your girl were in Wyoming still stands out to me.
      And, like those young ‘uns, I’d have my camera out as well. I love photographing vehicles of all types–the added mud would have only enhanced the character.
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting–I always appreciate what you have to say.
      Speaking of…are you ever going to start that blog of yours??


      1. Working on it Mama. Still collecting pennies – it’ll happen. Meanwhile Willow at Willowdot21 is allowing me to post each Sunday starting this weekend. Drop on by and say hello! It’s a “If we were having coffee..” theme. Thanks for the compliment Michelle. I enjoy your blog very much.


  3. I grew up a suburban girl and raised my daughters as suburban girls. Their Dad was the son of an upstate NY farmer; I still consider them family. Trips to visit them — then, and now — bring up a longing for the dirt and smells I never knew growing up. I am so grateful my girls experienced that as their reality, if only for a weekend or a few weeks at a time; it’s shaped who they are as adult women now.

    After days of hot (for this area) sun, I sit here smelling a Norwegian forest smell of very light rain drifting into my open window. Your words are the perfect accompaniment, and enhance the honest smells of nature and earth.

    I think I’ll go fill in the hole my sweet lab had dug under the rhododendron bush trying to get cool, and get a little dirt on my hands.

    Warm greetings from far away, Michelle!


    1. Hi Cindi,
      It’s always so great to hear from you…always!
      Thank you so much for the suburban perspective–even though I write for myself, I want it to be relevant for everyone. “Trips to the farm” my parents’ farm) are what my kiddos still enjoy today. They have brought friends over the years and the times are always memorable.
      I hope you enjoyed filling the hole your sweet lab dug…pooches know the magic of dirt, too.
      Take care Cindi…I think of you often 🙂


  4. Love the song,
    Love the post,
    Sprinkle some dirt,
    On my toast.

    Who am I kidding, that’s terrible. And gross. I needed to say the same thing as everyone else without saying the same thing as everyone else. All dirt-sandwiches aside, amazing post.


      1. Haha! I hope you enjoyed your sandwich. They’re not bad once you get past the grit. I should have become a chef- well, maybe a poet. Nooo, I should just stick to being a Velcro Tester. It’s tedious, but someone has to do it. Keep writing awesome and wonderful pieces. They are such fun to read.


  5. Ah, Michelle. We speak the same language. This is exactly how I feel about getting into the dirt: “In fact, it’s the first thing I reach for after a harsh winter, when too much time has been spent at a desk or my heart is heavy and my mind is racing. Dirt is the evidence that you dug the hole, made the promise and rubbed it on a wound when crying would have been easier.”

    You have such skill with taking common experiences and turning them into flashes of magic.


    1. Hi Meg,
      You are so kind to notice the little things. Common experiences do give me great joy and I love writing about them the most. I’m so humbled that you would pick out that very purposeful part of what I do. Reading your words makes me hope we can meet someday. I can see us talking like old friends, sipping on something yummy and comparing garden stories 🙂 xo


  6. So good……
    I miss my dirt so much; this little balcony with to enough sun and just pots is not cutting it. This post wa beautiful and made me ache.

    I sink my fingers into it to heal.
    When I need to think.
    When I don’t want to think.

    loved those lines, I so relate.
    feeling melancholy.

    But a great post and a great series, thank you!
    and i owe you an email and i have been so busy and it will come soon


    1. Hey Michele,
      I’ve been a bit melancholy this week, too and aching as well. Don’t know why…just the “meh” which can be worse than outright blues. I’m sorry that the melancholy was hanging out with you, too.
      If I could load up a truck of smelly dirt, I’d send it your way with hearts and flowers. Perhaps writing this post was my virtual, mental way of doing so.
      Thanks for hanging with me during the whole series…I think of you often and am so thankful that our paths have crossed. No hurry on the e-mail…I’m not going anywhere 🙂


  7. Beautiful post, incredible series and perfect song to wrap it up. “Dirt is the evidence that you dug the hole, made the promise and rubbed it on a wound when crying would have been easier.” You’ve said it all, Michelle, in that wonderful way you always do. Much love to you!


    1. I couldn’t have said it any better Karen. Been searching for the right words (like you commented to someone, I’ve been reading and thinking a lot, but not as much commenting), just reflecting on this post.

      Dirt, like all of the elements, is life giving, healing, regenerative…it can also destroy…but that allows one to start over and grow again.

      Happy growing Michelle, you flourish more and more ever day! ❤


      1. Christy…I love what you wrote. The part about reading and finding the right words. I feel the same thing when you write something that speaks to my heart but my mind buries the words. Sometimes a simple xo is all I can manage.
        This post was purposefully short and simple. Sometimes the act of “just being” is enough. Reading is enough. Letting it soak in without getting a headache or stretching to find hidden clues and the meaning of life.
        I was back out in my garden again today, digging in my compost and soaking up the smells. Dig, smell, repeat. Honestly, I have no idea why that makes me so happy…perhaps I was a garden mole in a former life 🙂


  8. Beautifully written. So beautiful in fact, that my complete lack of a green thumb read it over again so that I might achieve that dirt under the fingernails effect of having dug deep for something that keeps giving back.


    1. My dear, kind Cayman.
      Your words express exactly what I was hoping for…you don’t have to be a green thumb to appreciate and heal in the simple process of attempt. Thank you for being so insightful and understanding me at the heart. xo


  9. Hi Michelle, I found your blog through the “Blogging From the Heart” tour over on Karen’s website. I can see why she tagged you. Your writing is beautiful and I loved reading this post today.
    I never thought much about dirt until I started planting for the first time this year. It had always bothered me but now, it provides soothing to my soul as I feel the dirt between my fingers and see how stunning my plants look against the background of our hilly complex.
    I look forward to getting to know you and your creativity=)


    1. Hi Gina!
      What kind words to start my Sunday. Thank you!
      A friend of Karen’s is forever a friend of mine 🙂
      I’m also so happy to meet another who understands the healing power in the earth and soil. I worried that the subject was too simple and not relevant. That said, when the words flowed so easily, I knew that even if didn’t resonate with anyone else, it resonated with me. I can’t tell you how happy I am to know that it’s a bit universal.
      Thank you so much for stopping over and saying hello. I’m eager to hop over to your site and read as well. In fact, I read your beautiful poem that sits on your site right now. You are a talented heart teller yourself 🙂


  10. Michelle, this was just lovely. I am no green thumb; in fact, I think potted/planted things get busy dying when I’m in the general vicinity. But I have heard of the benefits of plunging your hands into the soil and helping breathe life into bulbs and yourself. And while I’m hoping to get to that point one day, t.o.d.a.y. I’m comforted by this:

    “Dirt is the evidence that you dug the hole, made the promise and rubbed it on a wound when crying would have been easier.”

    Blessings to you this Monday,


    1. Oh thank you, Dani!
      I know we just “met” but it makes me so happy to see your Gravatar come across the screen. As you’ve so astutely pointed out…one does not have to be a green thumb to appreciate the healing process. And, BTW, It’s taken me almost 40 years to get anything the correct shade of green 😉
      Thank you again, Dani! xo


  11. Beautiful writing and pictures, another homerun. I really liked this line: “My dad and grandpa nurtured it while my mom chased it around with a broom in our living room.” I don’t garden. I did a little planting here and there over the years, but nothing after my second was born (my husband does all the yard stuff). I know I am missing out, though also know I don’t have a green thumb. This summer I decided I want to do a vegetable garden next year. I got my german-roots husband in on the pre-planning process…a necessity. I think we’re definitely going for it next spring. You’ve inspired me with your words and your photos but so much more than that.


    1. Oh Kristen,
      Your words always find a way to my heart and stay. I’m completely stoked about your pending vegetable garden!! You’ll quickly find that the process, planning and tasks far outweigh the joyful outcome.
      My fondest memories are those of hubby and I picking up a corn field devastated by raccoons (they had a MAJOR party a week ago). I like it when he makes fun of my obnoxious supply of produce that people will never eat and he likes it when I wander off into my space when I’m acting a little too grumpy for his taste. In this family, it works…just like it will work in yours. I can’t wait to hear what you discover. xo


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