Easter Needles

The air is crisp, smelling like smoke and sage. I bend over the rake, piling needles into little mounds all around the yard. We live on a half acre. Not too big, not too small. Just right. (Call me Goldilocks). Unless it’s yard work time. Then it feels like 10 acres and I wonder why we don’t live in town on a postage stamp lot with the yard work done by the HOA.

Central Oregon winters are a bear. Long. Cold. Some years very dreary. This was one of those years. I don’t like cold. I can handle cold and sunny. Cold and gray makes me want to move to Mexico and live in a hut with only a swimsuit and flip flops.

So I am glad to be out on this crisp spring day. The sun is out intermittently. It’s cool but not cold. The fire smells good, though by the end of the day I smell like a forest fire. I don’t mind the yard work, really. I like when I can do things that show change. I trim back the bunch grass, shrubs, and rake, rake, rake.

Tomorrow is Easter. I haven’t been super mindful this year. I often follow a Lenten Calendar personally. But I didn’t this year. We enjoy our church but aren’t involved. Partially by choice. Partially because of distance. It’s 30 miles away. I don’t like going to church on these holidays where every service is packed and there are no parking spots. But I do want it to be a Holy Day. So I ask Jesus to help me center in to him and the real meaning of this day. I let go of shame for not being more mindful. I just come as I am.

Fire-scented, sweaty, and developing raking blisters.

Pine trees populate our property. As I rake, I keep working on getting every pine cone to the fire. My 13- year-old, who owes us money, is out front working to tame those needles and cones. My 9-year-old is tackling the driveway. I work the back yard. I rake a section and then carry the needles to the fire, watching them catch fire with a smile. I like burning things up.

Invariably, as soon as I have cleared an area, the wind blows and another pine cone falls. I set down the rake, pick it up by hand and throw it to the fire, making it a game. But I feel this flash of irritation each time I turn around and there is another pine cone. All day long, I play this little game with myself and the wind. As I finish, I realize there are, of course, several other pine cones that have fallen. It’s 6:30 pm. I have been out here most of the day. I’m tired and my hands hurt. I’m mad. I KNOW more will fall. But can’t it just stay done for tonight? I’m not terribly OCD but there is something in me that is angry.

I want the certainty of finishing.

I glance to God in my mind.

I hear, “Pine cones keep falling so you will touch the earth.”

I’m not one of those people who hear God all day long. I do hear him/her. But it’s often random or through a song or a movie or a friend. But this had that God-sound that I know well, regardless of how often I hear.

I do need to touch the earth. It grounds me. Literally. The energy of the earth started with the One who made the earth. And who is a force of soothing and rest. I feel it when I touch the earth or lay on the grass or feel the wind on my face or shovel snow or swim in a lake. If I finished the yard and it stayed finished, I would have less opportunity to bend down to touch the earth. My busy soul is good at moving so quickly that I have no need for touching the earth. I hear in the words a lesson in tending.

We must tend what we love in order to flourish.

I blow a kiss to the Holy Three in my mind’s eye, and put the rakes away. I go in to shower the smoke out of my hair. I feel satisfied at a task well-done, but more than that, I feel connected to the Holy. It had nothing to do with me preparing. I just asked. And slowed down inside. And trusted that I would be met. I’m grateful.

Happy Easter. May we see our work as tending what we love. May we touch the earth and feel God. May we touch the faces of those we love and see Holy.