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March 16th, 2009 at 10:49 am

Watching the Grass Grow

Someone, I don’t remember who, maybe Audrie Keen, said the other day on Facebook that she wished she had the patience to watch the grass grow. I don’t know exactly what caused her to say that, but it resonated with me. Sometimes it seems like in the rush and hub bub we’re all losing track of ourselves, and it is indeed in such quiet moments of watching the grass grow that we find ourselves again.

I used to spend more time watching the grass grow. OK, I wasn’t really watching the grass, just sitting outside, maybe on my patio, maybe in the woods against a tree, maybe on a hike lying down on a rock looking up, and just being there, watching, listening, absorbing. I always felt such love for things around me, such respect and awe, and a sense of privilege at being able to witness the mundane events of life – a bird collecting material for a nest, an ant crawling up a tree, a plant reaching for the sun, water rumbling-tumbling over a tiny fall, swirling in patterns here and there, tiny critters skimming across the surface. I used to think to myself, “This is a unique event in the history of the universe, what is happening right here, right now, and I get to witness it.” It made me happy. 

Sometimes I would feel very frustrated over not being able to communicate the feelings and thoughts that such times evoked in me. I wanted to do so not out of self importance, but because it just seems my nature to want to share with others what I have seen or known or learned. So often I could not articulate even for myself just what it was that I had seen or shared or known. And who would care anyway. 

I am older now, but the grind of life has not taken away from me the desire to watch  and listen to the grass grow and to share what I see and hear.  It is what I most want to do though it is hard to find the space.

I did not use to love people so much. They seemed to cause all the trouble in the world. But now I see and know that every person is as unique as every scene I witnessed as a watched the grass grow. Underneath the hard crust of banality every person has a story to tell, a unique story. There may be a cookie cutter outside, but there is seldom a cookie cutter inside. Each person is the only one in the universe who has experienced exactly what he or she has experienced. I find human lives fascinating now. 

It is the uniqueness of every moment and every person and every thing that interests me most these days. I am drawn to creation most naturally, but there are many ways to watch the grass grow. When it comes to people, watching the grass grow means being open to who the other person is, not imposing, not demanding, but watching and listening. Listening is often the greatest gift we can give to another. It may seem like hard work, but watching grass grow can be hard work too.

I used to have the sad thought, “All these moments, these millions of moments, they pass without notice. My life passes for the most part without notice. Does it all mean nothing?” I have been greatly comforted in knowing that God notices. He notices and He knows. I take comfort on that passage that says, “for you have died and your life is hidden in Christ with God.” 

I’ll end with another poem of Hopkins, “Pied Beauty.” Hopkins watched the grass grow a lot. He understood the unique beauty of individual moments. He loved the odd and fickle. I am glad he found a way to share his love.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things— 

     For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; 

         For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; 

 Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; 

     Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough; 

         And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

 All things counter, original, spáre, strange;   

    Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?) 

         With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím; 

 He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:

    Práise hím.

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