Six boys scanned the yard from late afternoon until dusk. They walked with their heads down, six pairs of eyes scoured the not-yet-green grass. Each step bore silent anticipation, nervous chatter bubbled up around their listening.
When the metal detector beeped, they cheered and rallied around, shovel in hand. Not-yet-green turned muddy brown as they dug holes haphazardly throughout the yard.
Holes, all through the yard; potholes, ankle-twisting pits, mower-wheel-swallowing craters.
That night, after getting groceries and returning a movie while listening to a radio talk show dissect presidential politics, my husband arrived home agitated. He was in a state as he filled me in on the groceries, the politics, the hole situation. The way he talked, our yard was a war zone, the site of asteroid and comet landings, a grand canyon of potential grass laid to waste by six boys and one shovel.
It was dark out, I had no way to confirm or deny, so I accepted his wild eyed assessment at face value. Holes, everywhere. And politics on the radio on top of it all.
We complained about our ruined lawn and ruined country, feeling old beyond our years and went to bed early. But in the dark, our minds raced and nerves jangled.
I opened the door to the bathroom closet today and found laundry piled knee deep.
I shut the door tight and left the room.
All day that pile grew in my mind’s eye – waist deep, chest deep, until I was drowning in it. Add to it the pile a mile wide in the twins’ room, the remains of the stomach bug laundry waiting to be folded and there’s nearly enough laundry, I’m sure, to fill in a good many of the holes in our yard.
Something about those holes and the laundry remind me of the dead mums I wrote about on Monday. Last fall they were a riot of burnt orange and red, waving their hands in the air all along the side of the little house. But then cold weather came and they died back. Flowers rotted, leaves shriveled, curled, brown until all that remained were the ugly husks. Those bare, brown bones rattled at me all winter long, untidy, a reminder of unfinished business and I stared back at them from the kitchen window. There was no door to shut on them.
At the first whiff of warm air and sunshine, I marched out to attack the brittle branches like they were my mortal enemy. I cut my hands on them, eager for the pleasure of their demise. Take that, mums! I snapped and twisted, conquering one small corner of disorder as if its tidying might hold the key to life.
Mid-twist, though, I noticed what hid at the base of each frail and failing branch – small, ruffled, green leaves, the beginnings of next year’s joyful riot. Here I was, like those boys, finding treasure in the dirt (minus a hole, of course). I continued to twist and break, more respectfully now, looking no longer to rid us of the dead, but looking for signs of life.
The morning after hole-mageddon, I looked at it from a different angle and with new eyes I saw more than holes. I saw my son excited to impress boys his own age, thrilled to have an awesome toy for once, to be the envy, the star with a shovel in hand. I saw the treasure in his delight and it made the holes less glaring. Walking outside later in the day I was surprised to find most of the yard still intact. It would take six boys more than one evening to dig up two acres of land.
There’s so much to fear, so much to overwhelm in this life. The bones of things unfinished rattle at us, hard work is easily undone and more hard work awaits. This is so very true. Fear looms large at night, in winter, in the mud-before-spring season of despair.
Do not despair, little ones.
God is always doing something new, do you not perceive it?
Go dig a hole. Tend your garden.
Do not believe fear's whisper in the night.
The good work of our hands, the feel of the earth between our fingers, the labors of love for a household, these all remind us - treasure is buried everywhere. Even, maybe, at the bottom of the laundry pile.
Open the door, dig deep, look again, always. Treasure is buried everywhere. Do not despair.