emarkthomas

Trying to live love well through the power of the Everlasting.

These Things Take Time: Growth.

Roughly 24 years ago, my mother and father packed up myself, my older brother, and my younger sister and moved us back home. For a few years, my parents had lived in a different town as they focused on building their own family unit, separate from their extended families. But by the time my mother became pregnant for #4 (otherwise known as my sister Jennifer) they’d decided to bring us back home, to the tiny town in which they both grew up. To plug back into the family farm of which my father was a member of the fifth generation. So my grandparents gave them a plot of land, about an acre and a half, on the edge of the farm where they could build a house.

And build they did! We moved into the house when I was four years old. The house was surrounded by red pine trees, because my great-grandmother had hired the town’s young men to plant several acres of them on “the Hill” where her fields used to be. In order to build, my dad had to log out enough trees to make space for a house and a small lawn. And I do mean a small lawn! I remember, at first, the patch of grass around us that disappeared into the dark pine forest which, to a kid, was a magical and dangerous place.

As the years went by and our family grew, so did the need for space. By the time the “Original Six” children of our family were present and accounted for, we had run out of space to play in the lawn. So my grandfather and father logged out a new space for us – a great big lawn that had more than enough room for us.

By that time, though, my older brother and I were old enough to start helping with the outside chores. Such as mowing the new, large lawn. Oh, how I hated it at first! With only a small push mower and such an expansive yard, it really was quite a task. My brother and I shared it, though, and it was never quite too much for either one of us. Although I do suspect that he may have pulled far more than his fair share for me. He was always doing things like that, my big brother. He’s just one of those guys that are just… good.

Anyway, when he left for college, I was left alone in the lawncare department. I didn’t mind quite so much by that point, because in addition to the push mower we also now had a riding mower. The riding mower covered the vast majority of the lawn, but because our house is built into a hill there are sections of the lawn that are too dangerous to mow on a riding mower, so a push mower is (still is, in fact) required to finish the job. With the advance of technology, and with the finances provided by my summer job teaching swimming lessons, mowing the lawn became a refuge where I could listen to my music on my trusty Walkman (later Discman) and just have a few hours to myself.

It was during that season of life that I began to open my eyes to the neglected sections of my parent’s property. I began to view the abandoned pasture next to our house as potential. I began to view the sloping hills down to the stream as potential. The old horse corral on top of the hill, behind the house, that never got used anymore? Potential. So over the period of two years, I slowly but surely began to extend the boundaries of the lawn. Areas that had long been left alone to grow up to brush were cleared out and mowed. The beautiful stone wall was cleaned up and became a breathtakingly beautiful backdrop for the property. Trees were pruned and thinned, rose bushes and lilac bushes planted, and the stumps of the old pine trees removed.

Eventually, we possessed a beautiful and expansive lawn that really was quite something when it was taken care of.

Now, all these years later, I find myself 27 years old and here again, for the foreseeable season. The lawn has only gotten better, and with my eyes and hands it’s going to improve even more. My mother and I spent yesterday morning (Mondays and Tuesdays are my weekends) planting a beautiful flower bed in front of the deck. When the bulbs come up, it’ll be spectacular. We had some leftover gladiola bulbs, so I walked the lawn looking for just the right spot to plant them. I reached the far corner of the lawn, up on the hill, where my mother’s rose bushes are really taking off. I stopped and surveyed the property from its highest point, and suddenly I realized something: that the old cow pasture the adjoins our lawn on that side is just that now: an old cow pasture. And that big, beautiful cherry tree that stretches out its branches so? Well, there’s no reason for it to be on the other side of the fence now, is there?

And come to think of it, there’s no reason why we can’t move that fence back a good twenty feet now, is there? At one point there was a massive brush pile there, composed of all the branches and stumps of the trees from clearing out the space for the house. But that pile is gone now, and even the traces of it can easily be cleared away to bring in the lawn mowers. And as I stood there under that cherry tree, standing in land that until just that moment had only ever been thought of as ugly pasture, I realized that when this little plot has been given the same treatment the rest of the lawn has received… it very well may be the most beautiful spot on the property. Looking to my left from  that massive tree I can see our house and the lawns, looking so nicely mowed and green. And looking to my right, on the top of the hill, I can see the entire town stretched out below with the lovely river snaking right through the heart of it.

My breath caught in my chest as I imagined my family, ten years from now, laughing and playing under that cherry tree, with the incredible view going on for what seems like miles.

And as I thought about that, it suddenly hit me: life is this. My walk with Papa, and my walk in this world, happen like this.

With a lot of work and enough time, something beautiful and brilliant is fashioned. Not overnight, but over years.

With a lot of work, and enough time.

Beauty, truth, wisdom, knowledge, grace, patience…. growth.

Growth takes time.

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2 responses to “These Things Take Time: Growth.

  1. Kerry Miller June 7, 2012 at 4:23 am

    Ethan – this was so encouraging for me – looking out over my very unfinished house and garden… and life!! Thank you 🙂

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