Astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said, “If you want to bake an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” He could have said the same of mud pies, though it wouldn’t have sounded as delicious. But, before apples, the universe needed to invent dirt. Without it, we would not be here.

Although dirt is one of the most crucial — and threatened — systems on our planet, it doesn’t have a reputation for excitement. Until, that is, we see our bare feet standing on dirt, and realize we are looking at different aspects of the same cosmic elements.