I dug in the dirt on November 28th, 2020. That makes this a good year in my book. Yep, that’s really all it takes for me to see the good. Warm days late in November where the soil is not yet a block if ice, where I can peek under the fallen leaves and still find green herbs. I moved some raspberry plants and dug some peony roots in anticipation, took down some chicken wire fence to be used again elsewhere.
This was a good day.
At one point I sat, near the compost pile, in the sunshine, wrapping twine to save for another use, another day. The dog came and lay in the fresh earth beside me for awhile. It felt all too perfect for this world we live in, like I was just a little too blessed or fortunate to live this life. I want to remember that feeling on the days where my trust is lacking, my faith is faltering, my hope for the good dwindling.
There is good. And, for me at least, it is usually found in the dirt.
…as I sat with this knowledge I ached for the collective child who will never know the beauty of the earth for themselves, but more for the child who will never even have words for what she sees…
They are removing words like “wren”, “acorn”, “bramble” in favor of more modern words. I question you now; does my child need to know “encryption”, “keystroke”, “megapixel”? Does yours? At what age should the viewing of Windows (or Mac) be considered as above what is outside of actual windows? The loss of this natural knowledge will hurt our children, will damage our own fragile connection to our place in the world, will continue to disconnect us all from the soul of the earth, from a higher power, from our very selves. By taking these words from children, and more so by taking away the moments and places these words depict, we are robbing them of deeply expressive experiences. We are taking the voice from a piece of ourselves.
“Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly that at first almost no one noticed – fading away like water on stone. …” -Robert Macfarlane in The Lost Words
If anyone is interested in words, nature, the connection that comes from the soles of your feet in the muddy earth in late spring…there is a book for you. I will get no kickback for posting this, there is no affiliate link notice needed here. If we are friends in real life you know that beauty sets my soul afire. Beauty, as in; the barest reality of nature. Not only that. Also the clear descriptiveness of the written word. I’m a little jumbled here…let’s see if I can find my way.
I heard recently, that a prominent publisher was, and has been for some time, softly swapping words out of their children’s dictionaries. Taking words from the natural world and replacing them with words from the world of technology. I could feel the weight of this in my soul and as I sat with this knowledge I ached for the collective child who will never know the beauty of the earth for themselves, but more for the child who will never even have words for what she sees in dusty books, on travel blogs, in the paintings of the someday long forgotten artists. Taking these words from the children is doing them a disservice.
Is it so terrible that our young children can distinguish between grackle and raven and crow? Does this somehow stall their knowledge of technology? Does first leading children into meadows and marshes ruin them from one day becoming scientists or sociologists? Can we, for a few short years, a decade perhaps, keep our children primitive? Could we let them outdoors, lost in mucky streams, drenched in sunshine and rain, lost to technology and the modern world?
The book, you ask, oh yes. The book that set this post to scribbling. It is no small thing for a book to cause me to get lost in it’s world. Typically it takes a fantastical work of fiction for me to lose myself in it’s pages. The images and the prose in this book had me lost to this modern age as I turned its pages. In fact they drove me outdoors, seeking a silence that is found in only in oak forests, listening for the rush of icy water over stones, and the tromp of my boots through deep, slushy snow. Isn’t this what books should do? Inspire us to experience for ourselves that which only the world around us can provide? Sure, there may not be actual faeries in our fields (I do believe in faeries, I do believe in faeries…), but what is so wrong with wandering slowly along the back fence watching for mushroom rings at the edge of the forest just in case? When did it become so unfavorable for our children and ourselves to be lost to our imaginations?
Einstein is credited with saying, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
And while we can’t know for certain that Einstein actually said this, it does not make the words any less true. The descriptiveness, the nature, the imagination and creativity in fairy tales should inspire us all. Not just cause us to be more intelligent by increasing our imagination, but cause us to notice more. As we are more aware we will need words for the things we are seeing. Where will those words come from, if we take them away from our children? First by taking the physical experiences and then, by removing those words from the books they would seek out to put a voice to some feeling or expression they would like to share?
There is a link in the back of this book to John Muir’s website (pretty sure y’all know he is my nature inspiration); johnmuirtrust.org, I was lost in this site for quite some time, look for more on what I found soon-ish. I’ll have to drag myself out of bed earlier as I am not giving up any more minutes outdoors in this early Minnesota Spring to sit at my screen. I recommend checking out the site of course, but more? I recommend going outside, as I’m sure Mr. Muir would himself advise. Follow the nearest path, dirt is truly best, to where it leads. Sit awhile. Listen. Maybe you were deprived of this in your own childhood. If you don’t have words for what you hear and see, search them out. They are back there, deep in your subconscious I believe, though you may need an older copy of Merriam Webster to find them.
How do you place value on a day? An hour? A moment? Is it in all that you accomplish? Does the weight of your day mean more or less because you’ve checked off so many of the boxes on your list? Is all lost if, as you look around your life, the same things that needed doing yesterday need doing again, or still, today?
Do you know a moment is good because of the happiness that comes from it? Joy being of more importance than pain on our scales of blessing. Can feeling frustrated, angry, ill-at-ease, cause you to count this minute, this hour as a loss? While a smooth, cooperative, easy day leaves you trusting that God has smiled on you in however small a way.
Could it be something more? Not in how you feel or what you’ve done, but could the inherent goodness of your life be something simpler? Something that is so far beyond our control we often struggle to believe it even could be, let alone is.
What if the value of your life, of mine was not found in these common assesments? What if the goodness of our moments, was ultimately, simply, found in our Creator. What if, however much we eff up, however much we fail in human sight, however much we hate the way our corner of the world is spinning…what if those things can’t impact our peace, because God is good?
I’ve kept a gratitude journal for several years now. I can remember a time when coming up with three good things each day was a challenge for me. When the length of the nights and the pulse of my day made me stretch myself to come up with this handful of daily blessings. In the practice of being thankful though, I’ve become more. In looking for the good I have been able to see that most of it is good.
This has been a slow thing for me to learn. In the scratching out of thankfulness it has taken those few years for me to become accustomed to seeing it all as good. As we have struggled through our challenging years, I’ve come to see, to firmly believe, that even the hard or the percievedly “bad” is often a gift if I choose to look at it from the lens of God. I have needed a great deal of practice with this though.
I’ve written about my lack of sleep before, and how I now am able to see it as an opportunity. This has happened because I have allowed God to work in my heart, begged Him even, to do so. He has shown His goodness to me in so many other ways. Ways that I certainly would not have expected, but more than that in ways that I have not always seen, at first, as His goodness.
In my head right now I am making a list of things that have happened in my life that I would not have written in my gratitude journal, the list is long and I will not share it here. I will tell you that I have put myself in some bad situations as far as my safety, my financial security, and my mental well being are considered. I can see, in the looking back, how God used all -okay most- of those things for good. How the lows have only brought me closer to Him, and how that is really all He wants from and for me.
In my previous life I had sunk pretty low on the gratitude scale. I have deliberately climbed a ladder of thankfulness to be at this place, where I can see how some of those bad situations, weren’t. That He was working good for me in all things, even the heartbreaking things.
I don’t know if this practice of writing down thanks is enough to get me through something terrible. I pray fervently that my faith is never tested in a handful of specific ways. Because while I believe I am strong in my faith now, I also know pretty well what it would take to break me. That’s another reason I practice gratitude though. With the hope that in continuing to be thankful, I could continue to be thankful through any of the worst. It is a goal, and a gamble of course. There are no guarantees that I could experience life-shattering news and be at peace enough to immediately find the glimpses of good.
To be clear, I don’t write down the good and, “poof!” there is less bad. Rather, in making notes on my days, my interactions, my difficulties, I am looking for those flashes of good which are always there, should I choose to see them. This affords me the quiet and the space I need to really evaluate a negative encounter or experience, and hopefully, see it for what God needs it to be, for what it truly is, in my life.
Each year I start over, allowing the days to tick off their own goodness, counting up seemingly mundane moments along with the highest of the highs.
…the teensy sleeping through a night
…fresh, cold air
…skates on the ice with my littles
Do you have a gratitude practice? I’d love to hear about it sometime. To know how it has grown you, changed you. How it’s helped you to find contentment or joy or some small space in your head that has been taken back from the sadness of the world. Sitting down now to pray peace over each of you who takes the time to read my ramblings this year.