Friday, February 10, 2012


The groundhog is a poor prophet. In the pomp and circumstance of this year's Groundhog's Day, the reclusive rodent predicted another six weeks of winter. It was on every major and local news network, as it is each year. Yet Punxsutawney Phil has only been on target 39% of the time. Seeing as his odds are 50/50, a coin toss would have been a more precise methodology of determining the start of Spring. It begs the question as to whom is more foolish. On one hand we have a small mammal who, when surrounded with a teeming mass of humans formally dressed and staring at him, tends to "see his shadow" and run back to safety (100 times vs. the 16 times he "predicted" an early spring). On the other hand are humans who worship said mammal and interpret his behavior as an irrefutable proclamation of the weather.

I take it back. There are no questions as to whom is more foolish.

For those of us in Washington State who chose not to read too much into an oversized gerbil's predictable behavior, we have had the joy of copious amounts of clear skies and bright sunshine. For the past week I've been attacking the weeds and bushes, trimming the roses to make way for new growth. I occasionally paused to take pleasure in the low sun's increasing ability to send its rays through to my bones, warming my soul. It tells me that Spring is already here. As do the young crocus and forsythia shoots poking their way through the ground.

My mother taught me to find joy in the ground's labors and it feels like winter lingered far too long, as it always seems, preventing the simple pleasure of tending to our yard. It's all too easy, in these tenuous first glimpses of changing season, to be deterred by the hint of drizzle or the occasional chilling gust. But these are small obstacles to overcome in order to obtain the greater prize found in labor's completion.

There is peace when surrendering to the humbling presence of creation.
There is satisfaction in the calm sweat of perseverance.
There is hope encapsulated in the frailty of seed.
Hidden faith awaits revelation with the removal of weeds.
There is manifest joy seen in the blossom of life.
There is a harvest of purpose in the culmination of love.

As I set about relishing the return of the cultivation our yard, I rediscovered a fundamental truth of gardening. You're going to get dirty. And I love playing in the dirt. The contrast of warm, fresh air with the cool, damp earth reinvigorates that inner acknowledgement of existence. I feel alive. I don't mind in the slightest when I notice my hands personifying the nature of a chameleon. I watch as they turn various shades of brown and green as everything I touch leaves traces of themselves on my palms. It reinforces a truth I've known for a long time, but so easily forget.

We casually compliment the verdancy of the largest digit of those who have lush and vibrant gardens. We use that old colloquialism that denotes that there is a gift hidden in the genetics of those who are good with plants; some talent that others do not possess. I tend to think, however, that the origination of referring to others as possessing a "green thumb" wasn't rooted in the awe of their resultant work. Rather, I think it referred to their hands being stained the color of their toil.

Like so many things in life, practice makes perfect. The practice of gardening develops the skill necessary to produce a pleasant garden. There is wisdom to be gleaned from skillful gardeners, to be sure. Yet, some wisdom can only be unearthed with the spade of experience. It becomes a badge of honor to have one's hands stained with the green of chlorophyll and the brown of earth. Even after thoroughly scrubbing them, there are always traces left behind and I don't mind in the slightest.

It makes me wonder what other signs are visible on my hands and what they reveal about me. I hope beyond all else that I am tending my Savior's garden first and foremost. I long to bring my Father glory. I pray that I can learn to put myself aside, to let go of my own identity, and be a reflection of His sacrifice. I fail miserably. Yet, I cling to the hope that perhaps tending His garden is much like tending my earthly garden. With practice, He can bring forth abundance. I just need to get down to the task at hand. I need to remove the weeds, turn over the dirt, allow to Him plant the seeds of His Spirit, and patiently wait for Him nourish all things with the blood of His salvation.

My greatest desire is to be caught red-handed.

© 2012 Seth Alan Jackson