The Sower's Life

The spring of my life holds most of my memories. 

They are really just snapshots but are vivid in my mind. These pictures are as clear to me as the day when my twin sister and I stood facing straight into the sun while our Grandma peered down through the viewfinder of her box camera and saw our squinting eyes looking back at her. She was recording the moment before we would leave her world to go to school.

Between the ages of three and six, my twin and I spent our days in the care of our grandmother in the place affectionately known as the “sticks.” I don’t know if she would have ever caught me if I had known how my halcyon days were coming to an end. I walked out of paradise the day I pulled myself up the steps of that yellow bus.

I remember sunny days and snow days. I don’t ever remember it ever raining.

The screen door would slam shut on spring mornings as my sister and I went out to play. My grandma was often already outside having left us chewing on biscuits perched up on yellow Naugahyde stools. The canned biscuits were always burned on the bottom and were cold. They had come out of the oven hours before sunrise. Strawberry freezer jam, thawed and stored in the icebox, made them even colder.

By mid-March, Grandma had rolled up the quilt that hung in the living room during the winter and turned her attention to the gardens.

The onion plants went in early and the turnips.

Grandpa tilled the garden plots and Grandma hoed out the rows. We walked behind her in the furrow just far enough behind to miss the swing of the hoe as she swung it back in forth, a rhythm we knew well.

The earth aroma wet and cool filled our noses. Four little identical feet padded down dirt that yesterday had been turned over with the cut of the plow, smoothed with the harrow, called forth from darkness into light. 

The sun overhead, the dirt underfoot, the earthy fragrance unleashed announced the earth’s readiness to take in seed---soil made ready so that life could grow.

Forty-five years later, I see boys gathering seed on the rocky paths of Canaan. The trees that shaded the path had let go of seedpods after a windy night.

Each pod had four or five seeds folded its womb. They collected the seeds in a rusted #3 tin can---filled it two-thirds full. It must have taken them all morning.

“What ch’all doing,” I ask as I walk past, see them picking ‘round in the rocks.

“These seeds here---they will grow a million trees!” Sanders looks up at me from his squatted position, his feet slid into tennis shoes, scuffed and well-worn. He wore no socks.

The December air is dry. The faint smell of fire tinges the air above the ocean. White powder dusts the beautiful brown fingers gray as they pick through the stones. 

They hand me the can (slash) bucket. I dip my hand in, swirl it 'round in the seeds. They slide slippery, waxy through my fingers.

The seed collectors, they are eight or ten years old. They know what miracles those seeds hold.

Do I? 

Do I remember the power of the seed? 

I know seeds don’t grow in buckets---not unsown seed, without soil to root in.

I have gathered Seed for years. My journals, my Bible, and now my blog chronicle in scribbles and fonts the history of life of gathering Word seeds.

After Grandma swung that furrow long and straight, she put down her hoe and began to swing her arm. 

The brown paper bag crinkled as she reached in for the seed. Her eyes down, her feet took her forward along that narrow way. Her fingers released seed on the downstroke of the steady swing of her arm. Crows tottering perilously high in the maples cawed a warning into the cool blue morning.

And trailing behind her, four identical hands scooped the dirt back over the seeds. Lea and I gave the soil a gentle pat like we were putting those seeds to bed.

The seeds would sleep, and then they would rise.
….”Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)
It falls….into darkness, alone…dies. But if it submits to death, which really is a rebirth…it bears much fruit.

I am seed-gather like my little Haitian friends but I want to be a seed-sower like my Grandma.

The fruit of her labor filled the old kitchen turned pantry at the back of the house. She put some of the bounty in jars and some in the freezer. The old milk barn’s dark musty room in the back was carpeted in potatoes.

She sowed more than garden seeds. She tilled my heart, readied it to receive “the word implanted,”---the Word that saved my soul. (James 1:21)

She sowed into my future….the promise of eternal life.

I have gathered all morning. It’s time to sow.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, 
Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.  (Ps. 126:5-6)


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