It seems yesterday the grass was brown and brittle, but today it’s a bright, verdant blanket. Spring-green somehow happens overnight, but Ohio’s winters are stalwart so I’m on my back porch blocking the residual chill with a blanket and enjoying every minute because I know soon this air will be thick and hot, forcing me indoors.
For now though, it’s just right for growth to begin. Only three days past, my daffodils unfurled their little, green heads and pushed out from under the soil. Today. those plain shoots wear bold, yellow crowns and are making quite the splash in my winter-weary garden; foretelling brighter days ahead.
My gaze holds steady and straight across our wide backyard, but I am aware of my old herb garden just off to the right. I don’t look because the memory is nicer. I used to sit on the ground in the center of the plot, eye-level with the bees, butterflies, and a myriad of mysterious insects I could not name. I stare forward at a sea of jade, but in my mind I see clustered spikes of Lavender. I remember purple Oregano, deep green Spearmint, variegated Pineapple Mint; Coneflowers in yellow and purple, and creamy Yarrow mingled with lanky, wispy Tarragon.
Then I look. I see the old bed, three years neglected, and make a decision.
I am going to burn it.
Sound crazy? Like I’m angry or frustrated? I am a little of all three, but this will not be a fire made of anger or despair; it won’t be intended for final destruction. This fire will consume first, swallowing up all evidence of life. A magical inferno, it will create the illusion of total destruction. My garden will be a flat square of scorched, dead earth. It’s situation will appear hopeless.
But not for long. Resurrection will be just around the corner. This coming inferno will damage and maim, but it’s goal will be restoration. As we have established, brown and gray transform briefly to viridescent then onward, in an instant, to emerald.
Controlled burning is a tool of replenishment.
The weeds that have suffocated my herbs and flowers have had three years of unchecked growth, and are powerful now. I was forced to look away and let them take over. I had no energy or strength. I couldn’t lift a shovel or even a spade. I couldn’t push them into the earth. My grip could not hold and extract the relentless invading flora.
Friends offered to help – – to keep it up for me, but I refused and could not explain why. My garden was a part of me. It would have been like someone offering to take care of just my heart or only one lung while the rest of me eroded.
I possessed an intimate knowledge of my piece of earth, one that no one else could. To visitors, it was about the blooms and blossoms. But my hands had been in the dark places, deep in the soil. I had cried there more than once; pondered and prayed while my children struggled. When I had to watch them walk through trials, the endurance of the plants comforted me and convinced me my offspring would be alright. I mourned my mother in that garden, letting the sweet, savory fragrances fill me; the steady bombilation of bees calm my racing heart. I sat in the dirt, certain of life’s fragility, but soon rose again, convinced by God’s creation that life was stronger than death and would, in fact, never end.
So my garden and I had to decline together. Nothing else made sense. I let it go; let it fade into the lawn like an old grave while I crawled into bed and endured a take-over by my own invasive enemies. We both succumbed to the slow strangulation; the loss of sunshine and fresh air – – my plants shrouded beneath eager weeds; myself beneath bed clothes and behind curtains.
Now, it’s time to start over, and for that, I need a flame that will burn until nothing appears to be left; a blaze hot enough to kill the marauders. I am not afraid because I know the good things will come back, that just beneath the surface, the Oregano, Lavender, Tarragon; the die-hard Mints, the Coneflowers and Yarrow, will be on their way up. As soon as they open, I’ll sit in the middle and soak up the colors, inhale the scents, and watch the bees.
I talk to my garden. So I’ll apologize for the fire; explain it was for the good. I’ll offer assurance that I won’t grow an abundance because I can’t take care of too much, but I’ll grow a little and harvest a little. My garden and I will be useful again.
I will bury my seeds, put them to death, and believe with all my heart that God has the power to reach into the dark and bring them back to life; that He will cause them to grow, to open up and reach for all the light they can find.
My garden and I faded away, but with careful tending, lots of light, and air, and the right nutrients, maybe we can grow something this season. Maybe out of the ashes something new and beautiful will emerge. Maybe it’s already there, just beneath the surface.
John 12:24-24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, It remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Romans 5:3-4 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance and endurance develops strength of character. And character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.
Lyme feels like this.