Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How Brown is my Valley

“Our very life depends on everything’s / Recurring till we answer from within.” Robert Frost

We went away for a couple of weeks on vacation. When we got home, our lawn had failed to maintain a lush green appearance we have worked so hard to create in our own spot of Eden on Earth. What happened?

Well, we had left; that’s what happened. We had gone away and we had not asked anyone to take care of our lawn. No one was here to set out the sprinklers and move them around day by day.

Did the grass die? No, not really. The grass did what grass does when the rains stop – it went dormant. It went to sleep, conserving energy in order to survive.

We came back and I looked at the lawn. It looked like it was dead and dying. The grass was largely brown, with only a few patches of green here and there – mostly where our neighbor’s water had carelessly encroached on our territory. There, the grass had continued to grow green and luxurious.

Of course we began watering the lawn again, and it has greened up somewhat, but I’m not sure it will come back the way we want it to. That’s just the way it is. We didn’t kill it with neglect; it simply went to sleep and will perk up again when it is dog gone good and ready.

The good news is that I don’t have to mow it as often now. Yippee!

It’s funny how we try to manipulate nature like we do. I wonder what is wrong with us – with we human beings. Why do we want lawns and flower beds? While birds make nests and coyotes dens, I don’t see them spending any time decorating. What is it in the human psyche that requires more than simple shelter – this “need” to surround ourselves with “stuff” that require more resources, more labor, more time to maintain?

I don’t know of any animal (and am not sure how I would go about confirming this observation) that recognizes beauty. Oh, I’m sure there is some semblance of that going on with the mating rituals animals engage in – large racks on elk, bright plumage on birds, and the love songs of croaking toads, but the goal there is procreation, not beautification.

But the idea of a bird arranging its nest “just so” and adding a sprig here and there to make it look prettier just doesn’t seem to be there (in the animal realm), as I see it. I could be wrong, of course. After all, I’m a guy. I don’t see the need to paint a room unless the old paint is cracked or peeling. Fixing what’s broke is fine, but changing out the home d├ęcor seasonally just isn’t on my list of priorities. That’s not to say it shouldn’t be, but it simply isn’t.

However, not being in a single state, life is not as I would have it, but is as “we” (husband and wife) would have it – and that’s a good thing.

The fact is that while I don’t understand the need to beautify my world, I have come to appreciate the beauty of “our” world. The truth is that in the end, I DO like a fresh coat of paint; I DO like a green lawn, and trees trimmed of dead limbs, and blooming flowers (even if the deer eat most of them before we can actually enjoy looking at the blossoms).

Perhaps, having been created in the image and likeness of God, our appreciation of color, balance, symmetry, and life’s many wonders is a reflection of who we are, and who’s we are. While there is labor and the expenditure of precious resources to maintain and support this weird aspect of our human nature, perhaps it is worth it as it also imbues us with deep satisfaction within.

It’s not that we can control nature, but we can bring order out of chaos. It takes time, but that is one of God’s great gifts. We come to discover that it isn’t the external control that satisfies, but the outward manifestation of internal grace that brings peace and joy.

And that’s a beautiful thing here in this, our browning valley.