Dwelling in Metaphor

Photo via Flickr user Jose Maria Cuellar
Photo via Flickr user Jose Maria Cuellar

My family loves to be outside. We look forward to walks, hikes, and simply exploring our backyard. When I am playing inside with our son, I find myself assessing the value of our activity. As soon as we step outside, that assessing stops. The inherent goodness of just being outside takes over, and I can feel that goodness in the deep contentment of my baby. We’ve started to plant more and notice the micro changes in our yard day by day through the observant wonderment of a child.

It’s makes sense to me, then, that one of our creations stories takes place in a garden. It is the perfect setting to think about creation. The garden is an ideal metaphor for life. The garden is a perfect paradise for us to learn about God:

…the garden is about life and beauty and the impermanence of all living things. The garden is about feeding your children, providing food for the tribe…And what a wonderful relief every so often to know who your enemy is–because in the garden, the enemy is everything: the aphids, the weather, time. And so you pour yourself into it, care so much, and see up close so much birth and growth and beauty and danger and triumph–and then everything dies anyway, right? But you just keep doing it.   –Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I feel this. Simply dwelling in my garden helps me feel human. There is no learning activity needed. God is all around us, and we can just breathe and be still. When we do act, when we do weed and plant and trim and water, I do not feel the urgent need to talk through my motion with my baby. “This is earth. This is life. This is food. This is beauty.” He watches intently and does not need an explanation. He gets it, and the joy, wonder and curiosity on his face is pure.

Pablo Neruda, in his poem “Keeping Quiet” reminds us that the earth has something to teach us:

If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.

Yes, everything that is bursting with life will all go away, but then what seems dead will later prove to be alive. We’ll do it again next year. And we’ll keep doing it, and we’ll keep sitting quietly in the garden. We’ll keep creating a mini paradise for our family to dwell in. It will be our own little metaphor, God’s classroom.

Published by Ellie Roscher

Ellie Roscher is the author of How Coffee Saved My Life, and Other Stories of Stumbling to Grace. She holds a master’s degree in Theology/Urban Ministry from Luther Seminary and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

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