Strip back whatever’s on top of the ground—plants, leaves, gravel, even concrete—and what will you find? Soil. Soil, a single word. As if a single word could even begin to describe the immensity of what is happening right beneath our feet: a dance of microbial and fungal life in a sea of nutrients and minerals. All of this taking place in discrete layers, each defined by their different physical, chemical and mineral properties.
Interestingly, soil scientists refer to each layer as a horizon. Isn’t that perfect? Dig into the ground and what do you find? A horizon. Dig deeper. Another layer. Another horizon.
Isn’t it the same when we look into ourselves? Scratch back a layer of what you thought was yourself and what do you find? Another layer. Another horizon.
We talk of broadening our horizons, meaning to expand our abilities and understanding. The usual interpretation of this metaphor would be to look outward to gain this capacity. But perhaps there exists another interpretation. Could it be that by looking inward, by uncovering accreted material lain down through our lives, we could find a core of true understanding and openness—our essential natures?
This is not to say that we need dispense with all of our layers: the rich humus and topsoil where our relations with others occur or the protective layers where we preserve and filter our inner private life. It is rather to suggest that by visualizing the anatomy of our selves like that of soil depicted above, we may cultivate for ourselves lives of greater vitality and depth, grounded to bedrock.
—Jason Miller, Taproot Issue 1::SOIL
(In an effort to learn more about her husband’s farming roots, Brooklyn illustrator Julia Rothman dove into the world of farming manuals and guides. The result is her book Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Country Life – a collection of whimsical illustrated charts covering the wide spectrum of farm life – from a dandelion wine recipe, to chicken comb styles, squash varieties and everything in between. The book’s colorful pages are a treat for the eyes of young and old farmers alike. This illustration is excerpted from the book, text and illustrations copyright Julia Rothman, used with permission from Storey Publishing.)