Thursday, April 28, 2011

Do you know all your notes?

The last concert of the year is quickly approaching and judging by the commitment to practice and dedication to apply the weekly instructions of the violin teacher, it seems like parents are the only ones feeling the pressure to perfect the performance.

Every day I work hard on biting my tongue to keep myself from nagging incessantly. Finally, I decide that a more indirect approach might be more effective:

Does everyone know the notes of their solos and group piece in preparation for the concert? I ask my son, trying not to sound too obvious.

Yes, we all know them. He answers casually, dragging the rosin against the bow.

At least we are beyond step one, I think as I sigh a big sigh of relief. Perhaps there is hope…

Well, maybe all of us but L.
He adds, after thinking a little… L. is a beautiful, tender-hearted girl in his small violin class who also suffers from a mild form of autism. Her presence and participation in the violin class has been a tremendous blessing to all our children as they learn that playing their violins together goes beyond producing the right notes at the same time. Over the years, mutual encouragement, love, grace and patience, alongside giving your own personal best have become much weightier factors in preparation for performing in a concert.

Actually, she does know all the notes, he explains, but when she plays she transfers them into different notes, and then she takes out some notes and adds new ones. But, other than that, she knows all the notes.

I stare at him in amazement, wondering at his ability to affirm beyond what is audible. For I know that I would be the first one to point out all the notes played incorrectly, to notice every missing note and get annoyed at every added note to a familiar classic. My heart is both weighed and warmed by the stark contrast and I ask God to give me the extra ear to hear what he hears, to have the grace that knows and loves beyond performance, that listens not to imperfect notes we are producing but to the longing of the heart beyond what is seen and heard.

He goes back to practicing Minuet No. 2 while in between the notes I think I can overhear a conversation, from an altogether different realm, discussing the way I play the solo of my own life:

Well… actually, G. does know all the notes, but when she plays the solo of her life, sometimes she transfers them into different notes… and she is known to forget some notes and add her own new ones… But, other than that, she knows her piece…

And grace, and patience, and love enter again along with the assurance that all the vagrant notes will one day find their home in Him.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ John 1:17

Friday, April 08, 2011

Is That Doing Any Good?

Is that doing any good?, my Better-Homes-and-Garden poster child neighbor chirped, nail-clipping the dark green blades of his St. Augustine grass to the exact fraction of a millimeter height, while I stood barefoot in the dirt, old jeans fashionably folded up above my knees, hand-watering an ever-increasing balding patch sprawled across the front of our house.

Nah! I was tempted to say, I just derive peculiar pleasure from wasting my time, energy and resources on useless activities that accomplish nothing good. Yep, that’s me… doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, only to prove to the world that the definition of insanity hasn’t changed!

Instead, I twisted my face into a grimace that was supposed to be a replica (rather poor, I admit) of a friendly smile, and turned back my attention to the dead lawn, muttering under my breath,

Grow, damn it! Grow!!!
, quoting a garden sign I saw in somebody's front yard, which captured the exact sentiment I was feeling at the moment.

I’ve been at this gardening thing for more than fifteen years and one would think that by now I should have it down, that I could almost be called a professional, based on the amount of time, money and sweat I’ve dumped into the thankless bottomless pit called our front lawn. Admittedly, during those fifteen years I have learned a thing or two about lawn and garden care - from watering to mowing, from fertilizing to pruning. I also learned more than I ever cared to know about creepy crawlies. I discovered that there is such a thing as the right time and a season for any given garden activity and, well, not so right time. I had all the 'yes-es' and the 'no-nos' of the Southern lawn tucked under my belt.

So, why in the world is our lawn at its most definite worst since we moved into our house?!!!

And why do I have this nagging feeling that my perfect-yard-neighbor might be right to question the impact of my determined efforts (annoying as it may be to me that somebody else is pointing out the obvious)?!!!

I was still holding the hose, when I noticed that the ditch next to our sidewalk has turned into a small river, running towards the drainage hole.

My golly, he is right!!! All this water is draining right off the lawn into the sewer!!!

I hurriedly turned off the water, completely mystified by what was going on. I thought of all the fertilizer and pesticide and thousands of gallons of water I have poured down the gutter and into the retention ponds and beautiful Florida lakes… and the thought made me a little queasy. A lot queasy. My lawn might as well have been a ping-pong table and everything I was doing in hope of promoting growth was bouncing right off of it! I was on the verge of tears.

I went into the garage and rummaged through the gardening tools until I found a hand trowel. Back in the yard, I started digging (or trying to dig) a small hole in what was supposed to be the lawn. The dead grass on the top was still wet from my recent watering fiasco, but once I dug a bit, the soil underneath was as dry as a bone. Few feet further, I dug another hole. Same thing. Dead surface wet; below, the soil was as dry as in the middle of a desert and as hard as rock. I discovered a tangled mess of dead roots, the remnants of who-knows-what, intertwined to create an effective barrier for any water, nutrients or bug killers to penetrate the surface and reach the roots. A wave of despair swept over me.

How did this happen?!!!!
I cried out. I know that some people can grow a garden inside a pool of nitrogen peroxide. But, for me, gardening IS a rocket science. It took me years to learn each of these - regular watering; fertilizer and weed killer in their time; pesticide when activity observed; mow weekly; edge when needed; attentive presence – daily; patience - moment by moment. And, then, it took few more years to start implementing them on regular basis. By now, I knew what I was doing and I tried to do everything right… And THIS is the result?!!! The nausea and the despair wrapped their fingers around my throat and begun to squeeze.

I sat on the sidewalk with my face in my hands. The dirt from my fingers rubbed onto my cheeks, sticking to the blotchy layer of sunscreen. I thought about the days when I had so much fun rolling in the mud, frolicking in the dirt, looking like a pig while happily pretending to be a gardening queen, with nothing to lose. Every trip to my garden was an amazing adventure, so much to hear, so much to discover. I was learning to listen to the blades of grass and the earth under my feet and the wind that was calling my name. Then, somebody suggested Bonus S., and somebody else, few weeks later, Dursban. We bought a spreader and a weed-whacker, a blower and a self-propelled mower. We installed an automatic sprinkling system. Not too long after that I begun to notice that the dirt was bothering my skin, and started wearing heavy-duty gardening gloves, and long-sleeve shirt. I also added a hat to protect me from the harmful rays of the ruthless Florida sun. I was becoming more and more concerned about minimizing the dirt and the UVAs and UVBs exposure. Pulling weeds, being one of the dirties jobs in the garden, was the first to go. So, instead of getting on my hands and on my knees, all messy and grubby, I discovered that there was magic pink pixie dust that both feeds the good grass and eliminates the weeds (don’t ask me how the dust knows the difference, it’s still a mystery to me, but that’s what it says on the package!). So, the weeding became a forgotten art. To get rid of the bugs I started using magic pixie dust of a different color.

And so, little by little, a handful of magic dust here and a buzz of sprinkling system there, I effectively created a technological barrier between me and my yard, and along with weeds and bugs, I also successfully eliminated all up-close and personal interaction between me and my garden, all the face-to-face and heart-to-heart times, all the pillow talk and the mutual back-rubs. No digging and getting dirty, no dark brown soil under my fingernails, no archaic tools and activities like digging or pulling weeds. I retired my shovel to the back corner of our garage. It became my mission to discover an effective formula for successful gardening which would render heat, sweat and dirt obsolete, while producing marvelous results evident to all. I was already looking forward to the roll-out of the garden apps which would allow me to do all my yard work with a few pushes of my (still brownish) thumbs, sitting at my desk inside our air-conditioned house.

But, my garden would have none of this white-gloved, 21st century techie-gardener-
-professional nonsense. It missed ME soooo much that it got so sick, with such severe case of sclerosis of its sandy little heart, that, in order to save it, I had to go back to the sweaty and dirty work of digging and weed-pulling, uprooting and re-planting, listening and talking to the inanimate objects, a pig wearing a hat, during which process the soil of my hardened heart was getting loosened and soft along with the garden dirt which stuck to my skin and sunk under my fingernails.

And, now, as the rain mingles with sunshine,
and time,
and patience,
and rest
we both wait,
and hope,
and trust
and pray
that the good God would graciously bless and allow the growth - not only of the what is sown in the garden, but also (or even more!) of what is sown in the gardener’s heart.

For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns — broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Jeremiah 2:13