Dirty Green Thumb
She carried a little bit of dirt with her everywhere she went. Stuck in the cracks on the soles of her shoes, speckled across her scalp, crusted underneath her fingernails. Sometimes, when she felt lost, she’d lift her palms to her face and take in the scent of the earth that had soaked into her blood. She had a green thumb, people often said; plants seemed to sprout around her like they were called forth by her dirt-stained hands. She wasn’t sure if you could call her thumb green. She spent more time with the dirt than with the plants.
People seemed to think that growing was a simple, easy thing. A process empty of pain or labor. That she just whispered sweet nothings, sprinkled some water, dappled some sun, and suddenly it was there. All grown. But growing wasn’t easy, and it never really ended. Like her plants, she didn’t stop growing either. Her skin weathered faster, spotted like leaves entering their deathbed. Her spine was bent and often sore from stooping down to pull out stubborn weeds. She grew crooked as she coaxed her tomato plants to grow straight. Sunburn was common, no matter how much sunscreen she lathered on. She usually forgot anyway.
Her rows weren’t straight; they tended to wiggle like a snake on the run from her gardening hoe no matter how carefully she placed the seeds. One year, her two rows of peas grew over their guiding chicken wire to form a tunnel between them. She liked to sit in there and breathe in the green when the world got too dark. She’d never been able to replicate it.
She kept trying anyway. Growing and ungrowing things as they changed her.
She carried the dirt under her fingernails like it was stolen treasure or gold from the rush. If she could, she would bury herself in the earth and just sit in it, submerged in the source of life. Not in a grave– no, quite the opposite. She wanted to become one with the dirt, so she made it a part of herself. When people talked about the garden lady, newcomers always assumed she smelled like flowers and sunlight. They were surprised she carried the scent of the opposite; earth and worms and darkness. When they asked her why she gardened, she always said she loved to watch life. When they asked her what the most sacred part of a garden was, her answer was simple; the dirt.
Odi Welter is a queer, neurodivergent author currently studying Film and Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. They have been featured in Furrow Magazine and are scheduled to be featured in Tabi’s Flash Tuesdays by Litmora, SPARK by Yellow Arrow Vignette, Bender Zine, and Crest Letters Literary. When not writing, they are indulging in their borderline unhealthy obsessions with fairy tales, marine life, superheroes, and botany. Instagram: o.d.i.welter