“Black, brown, red and orange”

by SCC

I see you,

unveiling your colors.

You explicitly tell me what you are made of.

But, I sit and wonder,

Can others see what I am seeing?

 

Black, brown, red and orange.

 

Can they see you?

Can they see what lies within your palette of colors?

The beauty inside each mineral´s soul grants you many tones.

What if I tell them that the darker your black tone, the richer and fertile you are.

Red and orange tell us the presence of iron, manganese, alongside other minerals.

Can they see a great dance of anions and cations takes place?

They dance and take turns to jump around your clays.

 

Black, brown, red and orange.

Water up, water down, shaping and flushing your colors.

Piling up or running down.

Can they see the beauty inside you?

 

Infinite nonsense to call you dirt when you hold a minute universe still not well understood.

 

Black, brown, red and orange.

For me, you are nature’s soul,

for ancient cultures you are our Pachamama,

for others, you are our soil.

 

Black, brown, red and orange.

“An Ode to the Soil’s Soul”

by SCC
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The soil’s magic is not only found behind the veil of the physical and chemical dynamics that are occurring within it, but it is also found in the fascinating history of its formation. Many of those who have felt a profound admiration for the soil’s morphology also are very curious about the forming factors (pedogenesis). Doctor Hans Jenny (1899-1992) is one of them, fascinated by soil’s magnificent, multicolored pallet, admiring every inch of the soil. This passion led him to study and differentiate each layer (horizon) of the soil. He found spatial variability of the soil within a field, dividing the area into small units called tessera (pedon). The heterogeneity of the field reflected in the variability in pedons, he compared it with a mosaic in stained glass. His great contribution to Pedology was his remarkable work on the soil forming factors. From his studies and those of many other soil scientists, we know that the reason for the difference in color in the soil profile is due biogeochemical kinetics, occurring over millions of years and continuing to transform.

 

Many poets and scientists agree that a gram of soil holds enormous information. For a poet, this information can be perceived through the senses (sight, touch, sometimes taste). For a scientist, an even greater amount of information can be obtained by using analytical techniques, from sieving to X-Ray diffraction. Nevertheless, it remains unknown how soils’ spatial variability influences the ecosystem and, therefore, its features.

 

In human history, soils received attention not only as a resource for agriculture but also as a muse for poets. Soils captivated many people and inspired them to write beautiful poems. One of them is the British poet William Blake (1757-1817) who in romantic words immortalized a sensation related to how little things could have a huge meaning. In his poem titled “Auguries of Innocence,” he said: “To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and Eternity in an hour (…)”. With only a few words he expressed his excitement and great admiration about the soil, the same feeling is shared by many pedologists, civil engineers, geologists, and ecologists, at the professional level, and others, to whom the soil is their main economic resource or important piece of their culture. 

 

This is the case of Ecuador, where many Ecuadorians sing the verses of a poem that highlights this feeling of respect and love to the soil. The poem is entitled "Clay pot" written in 1950 by a famous Ecuadorian poet Jorge Carrera (1902-1978),

 

“Clay Pot”

 

 “(…) When my life is lost behind a curtain of years,

loves and disappointments will live on in the flower of time.

Hard-baked clay pot,

souls of green hills,

sunshine from my ancestors.

 

From you, I was born and to you, I'll return,

As clay in a clay pot.

I'll come back to you,

to your loving dust”.

 

In the same time period (the 1950’s), the soil became the muse for another poetic movement on the other side of the world, formed by geologists at the Leningrad Mining Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia. They are known as the “Pochveniks”, a nickname conferred to the Poets of the soil (Landa, 2009).

 

Across the world, respect and care for the soil have shaped our society and the history of different cultures. One remarkable ancient belief comes from the Andes, where the Incas and Aymaras named the soil “Pachamama” meaning “Mother Earth”, the giver of live, who assembles and feeds all creatures on Earth. Some indigenous traditions that honored the blessings of each harvest still remain in some villages, which once were part of the Tahuantinsuyo kingdom. This kingdom was mainly made up of territories from the southern part of Colombia to the northern part of Chile, and Bolivia.

 

Overall, our understanding of soil, based on chemical and physical phenomena, can be enhanced by soil's power to inspire our emotions and our curiosity. Such curiosity and wonder compel us to solve the remaining soil’s mysteries that have thus far evaded our knowledge.

 

If you have read this far, I invite you to join me to take good care of our soil, and thus, life on this planet.