I see the world through a soil lens and can’t help but write about it.
When I first learned about the diversity of soils, I felt like I had stumbled upon a hidden part of the natural world. I began studying soil science as an undergraduate student and quickly became enchanted by the many colors, shapes, and forms of soils. I was curious to learn more and followed that seed of curiosity with wild enthusiasm, leading me to a career I would never have expected.
Frankly, I did not see myself becoming a scientist, nor did anyone in my family. Growing up, we all expected I would become some kind of entertainer — a dancer, singer, comedian, television host — but a scientist? It just didn’t sound like me, and honestly, sometimes it still doesn’t. There’s just something about the soil that drew me in.
In the years since I have become a bit obsessed, you might say, with the beauty and wonder of soil. I was fascinated early on by the perplexing biodiversity of soils and went to specialize in soil ecology. I grew into my identity as a scientist as I learned about how soils form and function, studied the physical, chemical, and biological interactions within soils, and grappled with the global environmental challenges that threaten their very existence.
I was a student of soil science. I read textbook after textbook, devoured scientific article and scientific article, spent time in the field with experts, listened to lectures, and wrote A LOT to help wrap my brain around all I was learning. I became fluent in the language of soil science.
But all the while, whether I knew it or not, I was learning even more from the soil itself.
After years of thinking about soil just about every single day, one thing has become immensely clear to me:
The soil has infinite wisdom as soon as we stop and listen.
Spending time with soil has taught me more about life, love, patience, and living with a sense of wonder than I ever could have gleaned from a textbook. The soil itself is one of my most important teachers.
I write as a way to thank soil for the many lessons it continues to teach me. I also write to share the wonder of soil with you in the hopes that you might see soils differently. I hope that you will see the world with new eyes and be able to appreciate the soil that quite literally holds you.
I have a simple request: first, ask “what can soil teach me?” before asking “what can soil do for me?”. Then, be sure to listen.
Dr. Yamina Pressler is a soil scientist and educator in San Luis Obispo, CA. She is the co-founder of www.fortheloveofsoil.org, a wildly independent soil science education, communication, and art organization. Learn more about all the ways we celebrate soil and join our community of soil enthusiasts on Instagram @fortheloveofsoil. You can learn more about Yamina’s work at www.yaminapressler.com.