Faith, Family, & Focaccia

A faith and culture Mommy blog, because real life gets all mixed together like that.

Rocky Soil (Rocky Soul): Day 12 of the April Poetry Challenge

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I have to start by explaining that I am NOT a gardener. I am so much not a gardener that I would advise you to give me responsibility for any plants that you want killed. No need to tell me about the goal – they will end up dead even if I am trying to keep them alive. I have killed… bamboo. I bet you didn’t know that was possible, did you?

That being said, our return to our US house has presented a substantial gardening challenge. Our tenant of nearly three years did absolutely NOTHING with our planter beds, which had the predictable result of weeds that are taller than I am (and I am on the more statuesque side of the feminine height chart). Thus was born the anomaly of a gardening task ideally suited for me: unwanted plant removal.

Given my aforementioned skill at botanicide, this should have been easy. Unfortunately even weed killers need a basic appreciation for different soil types. The soil in the bed that staged yesterday’s effort at weed-wrangling was very rocky. As in, hundreds of little root-grabbers hiding in the dirt, repelling the invasion of the shovel blade, and making weed removal an exercise in… patience.

OK, there were a few intervals of intense frustration and there might have been an expletive or two, but mostly my several hours of work to clear less than two square feet of ground was an opportunity for contemplation as well as physical labor. As I kneeled in the dirt I gained a new appreciation for the metaphor of seed and soil, and also a new take on a very old parable.


 

Rocky Soil (Rocky Soul)

 

In the parable Jesus calls them troubles –

the rocky trials that block the roots of faith.

But rocky soil can pose another problem;

for hidden stones can block the digging spade.

 

This gardener seeks release for diving roots

of weeds that mar the garden of her soul,

but bending back, frustrated in its efforts,

despairs of the clear ground that is its goal.

 

These life-bound rocks can take the form of troubles,

but also of distractions, or of fears,

that make the steady work of transformation

much harder than the will to change appears.

 

I struggle with the under-surface tangle

of failings that are twisted round the stones

of habit, or of “innocent” addictions

that hold in place the traits that I bemoan.

 

The only cure is intimate persistence

no digging from above at shovel’s length.

Such rocks must be removed by digging fingers.

What’s needed is attention more than strength.

 

What’s needed is to kneel in my life’s soil,

– a penitent position, but not weak –

for prayer is a good labor for the gardener

with hope to grow the garden that I seek.

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Author: Serena Gideon Rice

In early 2011 my family moved our home, temporarily, from New Jersey to Milan, Italy. In the process I quit what had been my dream job conducting policy-directed social science research, to focus on my other dream job, raising our two young children. The three-year adventure was exciting, exhausting, disorienting, fulfilling, and countless other contradictions. It also birthed in me a desire to share my reflections on life's joys and challenges with anyone who cares to reflect with me. Now that we have returned to the US I'm finding that the new perspective I gained in Europe has come with me, and gives me a whole new way of interacting with my home. There's still so much to learn and share! I hope you'll share the journey, and add your own lessons to my daily education.

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