A Touch Of Nature: Dirt Is Good For You And Other Lessons

Craig Axford
10 min readApr 5, 2018
Photo taken by author atop Victoria, BC’s Mt. Tolmie at sunrise.

What makes someone rise early to watch the sun slowly ascend toward the horizon from a nearby hill? Why would anyone spend their annual vacation wandering about in Canyonlands National Park’s remote Maze District year after year? What sane person would decide to spend weeks riding a bike across Southeast Asia after her internship was up?

I’ll do my best to explain, but first you should know that I’m biased. I think the daft ones are the people that find none of these appealing. All of them are actual examples, though only getting up early to watch a beautiful sunrise is likely to be the one most people can identify with. To experience nature’s capacity to calm and heal, that’s often enough.

But before you dismiss the people for whom the occasional sunrise or sunset isn’t quite adequate— the ones that will drop everything for the chance to spend a day, a long weekend, or even weeks in a dusty remote wilderness — it’s worth noting that science and more than a little anecdotal evidence is, with the exception of few asterisks, on their side. This is even true if you include weeks long treks across distant continents where human contact is more common, even if it is limited to people speaking other languages and engaging in practices that, from an outsider’s perspective, range from exotic to downright disgusting.

First, let’s get the asterisks out of the way. Scientists do not suggest that individuals seeking to reap the emotional and physical benefits nature has to offer should disappear into the backcountry Christopher McCandless style. That kind of extreme adventure requires skill and, as McCandless learned too late, a good working knowledge of local edible plants. And of course, before you get a passport and venture out into the world on whatever great expedition you may have on your bucket list, a good scientist will always advise you to visit your doctor to receive the appropriate shots first.

With that out of the way, let’s go over some of nature’s benefits.

Grass Lake at sunrise: Sooke Hills of southern Vancouver Island. Photo taken by author.

Dirt is good for you

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Craig Axford

M.A. in Environment and Management and undergraduate degrees in Anthropology & Environmental Studies. Living in Moab, Utah. A generalist, not a specialist.