Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The god of dirt

A few lines from one of Mary Oliver's poems:
The god of dirt
came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things, I lay
on the grass listening
to his dog voice,
crow voice,
frog voice; now,
he said, and now,

and never once mentioned forever.
I've always loved that phrase -- the god of dirt. Some theologians call God "the ground of being." Yes, well, you know what the ground is made of.

I watch my tomato plants flourishing, turning dirt into stem and leaf and blossom. Now, they whisper, now. Not quite the Burning Bush, no thundering pronouncements from on high, just that gentle vegetable whisper. Now.

Dirt into delicious fruit. The utterly commonplace is a miracle more ravishing than raising Lazarus from the dead, or turning bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. The god of dirt turns compost into ripe, red tomato flesh, without so much as a whirlwind or a lightning bolt. The dog and the crow and the frog look on, like the dumb beasts at Bethlehem, adoring. Now, they whisper. The moment, this moment, is enough.

The green bulb swells at the base of the blossom. The god of dirt does not ask for gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. She says, Give me a seed.