Tag Archives: edaphic

edaphic

What can you get out of this mix of stems and loops, descender and ascenders and straight lines and curls and a dot? It seems like letters left from other words, decomposed into an assortment from which something new might spring. A peach, a pie, a chip, an epic head ache, a heap?

If it looks like alphabetic floor sweepings, that’s fitting; it comes from Ancient Greek ἔδαφος, ‘floor’. But edaphic doesn’t relate to the floor of your house; it relates to the floor of the forest, of the grasslands, of the world. The soil. Biologists often contrast edaphic with climatic – plants are conditioned by both climate and soil.

But soil is not just some unitary thing, a jumble of dirt. It’s made of particles of the earth’s crust, yes, the rocks that make up the landforms, ground into grounds of ground of various sizes: sand, silt, clay. But it’s also made up of the remains of plants, animals, and insects, and of all the things they deposit as they go about their living. Their organs may now be disorganized but they are still organic, and it matters. And in with that are living bacteria and worms and other things that move and stir in and stir up the earth. All of that is necessary, plus the water that flows through, plus the climate that meets it.

The edaphic mass is evidence of entropy. Things fall apart, get broken down, mix up into bits. But then life happens. Things come together, organize, make coherent forms, grow again out of the spare material. The earth may be edacious – it devours all in time – but it is also aphrodisiac: how can things not come together in the right edaphic conditions and make something new? So remember, when after a spring rain you smell the petrichor: we may return to dust, but dust returns to us. Forget not the edaphic.

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