Transience

In the country, it’s a small pragmatism: Need food, till earth. Last week, I broke a new potato garden patch. The children are not so childlike anymore.

As I paced the rows of freshly macerated soil, I realized how much space lies outside the south-facing living room window. Space that I’ve never really encountered in ten years of living here, except to survey it on the way by and dream of vague possibilities. Why was that awkward, oversized triangle of quackgrass and dandelions there?

For ten years, I’ve had thoughts rattling like loose gravel in the back of my head about what to do with the yard on the west side of the house, where heat and wind invade and stifle all comfort. Now, My Love and I pace the ground and talk of salvaged brick, flowerbeds, an arbor and the cooling canopy that elm trees would provide.

We say these things even as we realize that in another ten years, we may no longer be here.

A five-bedroom house? With all the kids gone? I don’t want to keep that much house. Acres of yard? I won’t use that much. I have it because it’s needed for growing children and the vegetables that feed them.

And the next place we go, a smaller place. Perhaps we might invest another twenty years there. And then?

Age comes creeping. Hands lose their strength, bodies their energy. The countryside is no longer a soothing quiet but a threatening isolation. And, eventually, we leave the tilled earth for another realm. Our dust becomes the dust, left behind in a self-consuming mortal sphere.

Need food, till earth. We breathe in the dust of saints and Jack the Ripper alike. Yet we’re not what we eat, or human existence would be a much more controlled affair.

We’ve built a life here based on doing the best possible for our children, as so many people do. But also, a life based on our own need for a haven. We could go elsewhere, where it’s noisier, more expensive, and has better services. Where the sky is blanked out at night by streetlights.

We wanted to look up and see the stars, and perhaps chart a journey across the lawn by them. We wanted to have space to clear our heads and see the Creator’s hand.

The soul needs food too, during its short sojourn here. Till heaven and earth. Pass away.