My Life in Dirt

A glimpse into the life of Edward Kanze — a man who claims happiness can come from the dirt.


| April 2016


DIRT: A Love Story (ForeEdge, 2015), edited by Barbara Richardson, is a compilation of stories and experiences from 36 different authors from all walks of life, talking about something they all love: dirt. From birth to death, we all end up dirty throughout our lives. These authors explain why that is something to be celebrated.

To find more books that pique our interest, visit the Utne Reader Bookshelf.

My Life in Dirt

I was born dirty and I’ll die dirty. Upon my delivery, slimy and blood-streaked from an amniotic sac into a hospital room, a doctor pronounced me alive, a nurse wiped and swaddled me, and my mother began to supply the milk of maternal kindness. If I die in a hospital or at home, I expect to be zipped into a giant plastic bag, as I saw done with Pop, my ninety-year-old father’s father, and whisked off to a mortuary. There someone else will clean and swaddle me one last time.

Between the coming and the going, we live, work, and play in a dirty world. There’s no getting away from dirt. Who would want to? Dirt is us, even though it sounds ungrammatical to say so.



As a child, pretty early on I learned there was a direct connection between dirt and fun. If I played indoors at a friend’s house or outdoors on a ball field, I tended to return home pleased. But if by the time I parked my bike in the garage or stomped through the front door I was stained by dirt from hair to sneakers, words such as “euphoric” and “transcendent” measured my exaltation. The connection became clear. To live life full bore, you have to get really, really dirty.

Life’s great pleasures — running around in woods, romping in fields, making love, raising children, traveling to enthralling places, helping those in need, immersing hands and spirit in sun-warmed garden soil — bring us into intimate contact with dirt of one kind or another. I have no doubt that dirt, as long as we keep it out of puncture wounds, is good for us. In recent years epidemiological studies have shown that exposure to a reasonable amount of good, old-fashioned dirt is a key to preventing the development of allergies. Cleanliness is not next to godliness. After a point, it’s foolishness. As my kids would put it, being clean all the time is stupid. Bring on the dirt.














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