Weeding, Watering

by | Jun 6, 2011 | 2 comments

This morning we went to church.  Man, I have such a hard time in church lately.  I go because it seems like a good routine.  And I do feel a tenderness towards the people as I hear them trying to understand the ancient documents with cities and names they have a hard time pronouncing.  As I listen to the worship leader say let’s really sing and give God the glory He deserves and then the music is just, well, music.  I listen to the pastor try to relate ancient text to modern problems and toss in a story or two about pop culture or his own life.  It all feels very paltry and I think if there really is a God shouldn’t we be addressing the larger issues all the time- like life and death and the fact that we’re here and there’s a God.  I guess that’s all pretty established but then it seems important enough to dwell on for a long time before getting to the small details and worries of our little lives.  Sometimes church feels like another self-help book about how to have the best life now rather than a meeting of saints.   It’s hard.

After church Audrey and I impulsively stopped at a large playground nearby, played a bit and got pizza from across the street.  Then we went shopping at Whole Foods before coming home.  I’m getting used to being alone on weekends with her, but every now and then I look around at other families at the playground and realize we’re alone.  It feels though, like I’m growing up in a way I never had before.  I make decisions much more quickly and assertively, and I try to do things that Audrey will enjoy.  I am constantly aware of the tension between my widowhood and her childhood.  Perhaps though, in some ways they bounce off of each other quite nicely.

Audrey and I bought a mushroom kit to grow mushrooms and open it up and she gives it a few spritzes this afternoon after snack time.  Beforehand, we read one of my favorite children’s books- “The Carrot Seed,” published in the 1940’s.  It’s been a theme for spring.  It’s about a little boy who plants a carrot seed and everyone tells him it won’t come up- his parents, his brother.  But he keeps weeding and watering.  Nothing comes up and nothing comes up and then finally one day- a giant carrot comes up.  “Just like the little boy knew it would.”  I try to impress upon Audrey that all along the little boy couldn’t see the carrot growing because it was under the ground, so he had to trust in the unseen just like we will have to with our mushrooms.  I tell her it’s the same way with God.  We can’t see him but we can have hope and keep weeding and watering.

The other day, I found it interesting that one of our sweet pea seeds that somehow wound up on the kitchen floor rather than in the soil, just refused to go into my very strong vacuum hose.  It was small and round but lots of other larger particles were suctioned right up.  This thing was stubborn in its potential for greatness.

One thing i keep coming back to when all seems lost, is that philosophical turn around of why there is beauty at all?  Not why is there is sickness and pain and disaster?  But why beauty and music and flowers and art?  And not just in the natural world, but even in grief.  Why is there, and there is, a capacity for beauty in such a tragic journey?  Why are there two choices clearly laid out before me- though invisible- one a path of bitterness and anger- one a path of beauty and wisdom.  I have to admit that when I veer towards hope, something deep, very deep within, feels lovely.  If I was misguided and thinking wishfully, I expect I’d feel a sickness deep within, a perverseness because I was covering a tragedy with such superficial wishing.  But I don’t.  Why would such a horrific occurrence even leave beauty as a possibility for those grieving?  But still there it is- it confronts me and I can’t deny its existence- though, yes, invisible.  Is is hard to believe dying, even this senseless brutal young death that leaves me heartbroken for the rest of my own days- could be 100% tragically done and finished if I am given these two choices.  Maybe it’s a foolish calculation in my mind to believe 100% ugly could not yield a 50/50% chance of bitterness or beauty unless there is some unseen factor to your death and death itself…maybe a hint of life.  Maybe a small seed.  Maybe something about losing your life and gaining your life.

But then again, most of the time lately, I believe
none of this.

I would be disingenuous to pretend I do.

And I can’t manufacture or will faith.

But there’s one thing I do- and I do much of it right here.

I can weed
and water.


June 6, 2011


  1. Christy Vinson

    yes, Julia. And you have done an amazing job of weeding and watering…and waiting. An unbelievable mother and woman you are, my friend. You continue to amaze me with your honesty, rawness and will. Your words are so amazing and heartbreaking all at once. Love you!

  2. Anne D

    Yes — the persistence of beauty. It's ridiculous! It's unnecessary! But there it is. (Read "Holy the Firm" by Annie Dillard if you haven't already.)

    And this quote from your entry above is related to why I converted from my Protestant upbringing to Catholicism, at age 42: "Sometimes church feels like another self-help book about how to have the best life now rather than a meeting of saints." My dear old UCC (Congregational) faith had gone all New Age-y and touchy-feely on me. As an adult, I wanted/needed mystery and a deep sense of the holy in worship. I have serious problems with much that goes on in the name of the RC faith these days, but the Mass and its sacraments and the banishing for one hour of all banal, pop-psych yammering in favor of ancient chants and eternal truths — that is what I was searching for.


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