Home Opinion and Features Carrying Eden under our fingernails

Carrying Eden under our fingernails

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Research has shown that damp soil is a good donor of electrons. This means that when you ground yourself on damp soil, it’s believed that you absorb electrons from the earth’s surface, which can neutralise free radicals and reduce inflammation in the body.

Picture: Alan Frijns from Pixabay

YOU COULD bet on it with 100 percent certainty; dump a load of red soil or river sand in our neighbourhood, and within a very short space of time, you’d have burrowing, tunnelling, castle-building youngsters swarming all over the mound.

Words cannot describe the pleasures of playing in a heap of sand – yes IN, not ON! The fact is, we did our best to dig our way into the heaps; it was as though we were mesmerised. But in the same breath, I have to say that no words can describe the pain that followed an afternoon session burrowing in the soil.

Every single time it would happen that we would, somehow, forget that digging into sand or soil with one’s fingernails caused the ‘keratin cap’ to lift from the nail bed, grains of sand to embed themselves between the nail and the tender, exposed skin, and days of agony as you tried to get basic tasks done with throbbing fingertips!

And if you’re wondering – yes, it did happen that we became so overzealous that we’d shred our cuticles and get grit jammed into the cuticle bed. Right there … that’s the answer to the question: “What are the ‘reckless days of youth’?”

Even today, when I walk past a heap of sand, I swear that I can hear the call of the silica: “Come dear child, come and shred your fingertips.”

The most sympathy we got from the folks was a heartfelt, “Ja, jy wil mos!” Did our parents not understand that we could not – nobody could – resist the allure of the soil? What were we expected to do when a load of sand was deposited on a sidewalk … ignore it? Impossible!

But I suppose that is how human beings operate; we identify one pleasurable experience and it produces a rush of endorphins and other feel-good brain enzymes, and from that point forth we automatically repeat the action, re-enact the experience hoping to get that original high, that flood of ‘brain beer’! I say beer, because beer seems to give as many people a lot of pleasure!

But looking at sand-burrowing objectively, just for a moment, I refuse to believe that it wasn’t one of THE best inventions of the 70s and 80s. I refuse to admit (even while being as objective as I can) that I was just mindlessly trying to achieve another ‘high’; an endorphin kick.

After all, research has shown that damp soil is a good donor of electrons. This means that when you ground yourself on damp soil, it’s believed that you absorb electrons from the earth’s surface, which can neutralise free radicals and reduce inflammation in the body.

In addition to this, it’s believed that contact with the earth may help balance the body’s electromagnetic field, leading to a calmer nervous system and decreased levels of stress and anxiety. Hugging a tree or gardening has similar benefits.

And yes, we climbed trees too – for no apparent reason.

Looking deeper into the effects of grounding; and here we may be stepping outside what some folk may consider cold, hard fact, but many people have reported experiencing a sense of well-being and connection with nature when they ground themselves in damp soil, walking barefoot on grass or gardening.

This feeling of connectedness, they say, contributes to improved mood and overall mental health. No wonder so many from my generation look back at our childhoods with such fondness, throbbing fingers and all.

Come to think of it, suddenly the old story of God creating humankind and placing them in a garden doesn’t seem so far-fetched does it? Adam and the ‘fruit female’ he was with must have had an incredible time in Eden.

By the way, did you know that the word “Eden” means “place of pleasure” in Hebrew? Who thought that a mound of sand could be my generation’s Eden?

One wonders if the reason there’s the pall of discontent and unhappiness hanging like a cloud over so many people these days is because so few of us manage to get out, play – or work – in the soil, enjoy a lush lawn or just find ways to get away from our desks, devices and entertainment systems and screens, and reconnect with something earthy, electron-donating and organic.

One thing that I have learned over the years is that grit in my nailbeds and shredded cuticles is far, far better than tight hips, a bent back, tense shoulders and strained eyes that come from, how can I put this? … That comes from NOT digging in the soil.

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