I slipped out to the garden during quiet hour this afternoon. The blue salvia plants are growing well. The cosmos that will likely grow up to my shoulders and burst into white puffs and ruffles of seashell pink are merry little clusters of feathery green at the moment, fluttering and bowing in the wind.
A swift, sudden rush of happiness sailed through me as I thought of the garden in full bloom, which this time last year was merely a hope based on seed packet pictures. My vantage point is different now; I’ve seen the vibrance of this very garden, and my anticipation is rooted in its soil.
I looked around at this small piece of land with a twinkling eye — this patch whose acquaintance I’ve made, whose dirt Y and I have amended and tilled twice. Its carrots always take a long time to grow. The ants love the southeast corner; one timid female robin prefers the northwest. I’ve plucked more than fifty cosmos shoots from the mulch this year — volunteer descendants of last year’s flowers — but I rejoiced at the sight of each one, and left some of them in place. Y has given up trying to tame the incorrigible aspen sprout that branches out from our neighbors’ yard, so the girls pick perfect green teardrop leaves for etchings. The rest will ripen into golden coins in the fall.
Seven years ago we moved to this region of the country, and this year I notice that it’s won my heart.
The sky here is like an upside-down ocean. Storms come scudding across it on summer afternoons. Sometimes the wind is so strong that it steals your breath and won’t let you draw another; it can snuff out the petals on a full-blown rose like a birthday candle. But on most days, it sweeps gently through fields and branches and hair, and makes every spot of shade a cool refuge from the sun. When I drive I remember where visiting friends gasped as we topped little rises in the road — how one of them began singing “The hills are alive / With the sound of music…” — and I see again the vast beauty that stretches out around me for miles.
It’s amazing how much there is to see when one looks.
I’ve played Sara Groves’ “Why It Matters” on more than one evening this month, sitting in the bluebottle dark in my room. From my chair I can see the string of tiny lanterns in the garden, backed by the silhouette of waltzing trees, and the faint light that filters through the blinds to cast stripes on my hanging frames. And I listen.
Sit with me and tell me once again
Of the story that’s been told us
Of the power that will hold us
Of the beauty, of the beauty
Why it matters
Speak to me until I understand
Why our thinking and creating
And our efforts of narrating
About the beauty, of the beauty
Why it matters
Like the statue in the park
Of this war torn town
And its protest of the darkness
And this chaos all around
With its beauty, how it matters
How it matters
Show me the love that never fails
The compassion and attention
Midst confusion and dissension
Like small ramparts for the soul
How it matters
Like a single cup of water
How it matters
June brought a stretch of silence for me, after a season of deadlines and (welcome) assignments. In the past I think such a period would have brought a wave of uncertainty about what I should write next, and whether or not any of it really makes a difference at all… but this time the silence and the sanctuary only grounded me more deeply in the convictions I’ve come to hold in the past year. Convictions about keeping my face set toward eternity, about family, about writing, about paying attention to the beauty of Christ in creation. About these “protests of the darkness,” and “small ramparts for the soul.” It helps immeasurably to be part of a community that is fighting for those very things, and to draw from deep wells that remind me again and again of their importance. I’ll have more to say about all the above in the near future, but for now — this is more than enough. I am mindful of the one great story of the true Word, of our efforts to tell of it, of the beauty that relays it.
And how much they matter.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
– Ps. 63:2-4, NIV.