The Brown Places

I seem to have the gene which compels one to find as many ways as possible to make their surroundings beautiful, organized and tidy. It can be pretty tiring work, and in some ways, never ending. Knowing this about myself, I should not be surprised by how hard it is for me to work on a project for any length of time, expending a lot of effort and have the results be less attractive than before the work began.

Its spring in the Pacific Northwest at long last. You can always tell what sort of winter we have had in the Evergreen State by the number of fallen branches that the wind has tossed about the yard. This year was especially windy, most trees have several less branches than they did at the end of summer, and the needles on the evergreens have been drastically reduced and redistributed, the bulk of them on my front lawn. All this adds up to wheel barrows full of thatch, moss and blow down that must be removed allowing the awakening blades of grass room to breathe and unfurl . My “beautification” gene kicked into high gear this weekend and two dozen wheelbarrow loads later, after numerous back breaking hours flailing around with three different types of rakes, I found myself shocked for some reason to find that my lawn had only been masquerading as a lushly verdant carpet. Once unmasked, it real self was revealed– a barren muddy mess. How disappointing. I instantly started trying to find ways to be okay with this revelation, telling myself it would be okay after a reseeding and some fertilizer. I found little consolation.

The “problem” seems to have struck a deeper chord than the superficial lack of green. This ugly, scarred, landscape is a lot like my interior landscape at the moment. It’s been a rough winter, marked by the death of three very important people in my life, a special friend, a dear sister-in-law and most recently, my beloved father. Without them, I am facing some empty spots in my heart, in my routines, nothing is feeling very normal just now.

Today would have been my father’s 90th birthday. He really wanted to be 90, but he just didn’t quite get there. Missing that momentous occasion by just shy of three months seems so unfair to me and yet he still lived a long and courageous life. That doesn’t make today any easier, it’s a bit like that muddy mess of a lawn out there. I am expecting grass, and in the back of my head, I am pretty sure that’s what I will get, eventually, if I follow all the proper lawn restoration guidelines, but right now, nothing is green.

I have been asking myself why it has to be green. Is there some rule that says all houses must come with an attached golf course wanna-be? Or maybe since this is the Northwest, it could just be moss. After all God said “Behold I make all things new”, he never said that would be “the same”. New can mean all kinds of things. Maybe this is the year to quit trying to grow a lawn, it’s a lot of work after all.

Today I am noticing that the deep gouges my thatch rake and I created in the soil have attracted a lot of attention from the robins. The word has gotten out that there are grubs for easy picking. Aw, there is a blessing in all that not so beautiful landscape. And I begin to see the resurrection in this mess.

Shifting my thinking this way is softening my need to rush in and fill the void created by so much loss. Maybe today I can sit in the emptiness of my father’s birthday without the quest of honor. The pain of his absence, not be able to bake a beautiful cake for him, knowing that my siblings are also hurting, takes no less of a toll on my heavy heart. I think for today I can sit in the empty spot and ignore my need to fill it with beauty and just let it be.

What I know beyond question is that I have been promised that ALL THINGS will be made new again.  I don’t know what that will look like yet, but there will be a resurrection.  And I can’t wait!!


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