This essay was originally written for and published in Loam Magazine. The original posting can be found here.
Soil has always been among my favorite things. Its sweet and full smell has always been intoxicating. The colors within it span a spectrum from creamy taupe to vibrant ochre and the bright black of a dying ember. When held, its cold weight in your hand is a reminder of how much water, and life, it contains. I came to love soil because of intuition, disposition, and luck. My hands met soil because my parents bought a house in the suburbs after years of living in an East Coast city. They moved to a place with groves of trees and occasional farms because they wanted a good life for their children. The good life, it seemed, was nearer to soil. So through happenstance and proximity, I become acquainted with the earth’s skin. As my parents dug deep into the ground to plant gardens in our new suburban space, I found myself increasingly familiar with the dead and dying material under my often-bare feet.
In college, I found myself thinking more about how to turn my familiarity with nature and love of asking questions into a career. I was fortunate to find people who encouraged that interest, and I found my way to graduate school to study forest ecosystems. But as I went from being a lover of nature to an expert, I began to see that my aspiration to be an ecologist was not just anomalous, but a disturbance to a much larger structure. It wasn’t just unique that a young girl with brown skin and thick, curly hair fell in love with soil, or that she even that she transmuted that love into a job. It struck me that the rarity of women of color becoming environmental experts was no accident, but by design.
To document interesting ideas about science and nature and reflect on the experience of being a scientist from the margins.