Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Too Many Apples


My garden has been a little neglected of late.
The tomatoes are a jungle
that has made passage down the rows nearly impossible.
I go out to pick ripe ones, and I find them.
But there are clusters in the middle whose flashing red is beyond my reach.
The large leaves of the suckers obscure my view,
and the spiders have wrapped webs around the thick growth in the center
that makes me loathe to reach in to grab some.
I planted tomatoes because I love tomatoes.
I want to eat them, not let them go back to the earth.
So I recruit my husband, and together we begin to cut.
The goal is to make the fruit reachable,
to give ourselves a clear view,
and to trim away what only drains resources,
complicates the purpose of the plant,
and causes good fruit to go to waste because it cannot be seen to pick.
To simplify.

I saw a news story today that set my mind thinking about cutting back, too.
A sheep was found in Australia who had never been shorn.
It looked like a tribute to Twinkies.
A good shepherd shears his sheep, cutting back that heavy wool,
freeing it to walk and to live.
A sheep that is never shorn is wasting its energy, and getting far too hot.
And a good gardener cuts back even green growth.

A local farmer was talking with me several weeks ago,
and I asked him why the neighbor's apple tree (which overhangs my garden)
was throwing its apples into my garden before they were ripe?
He asked me some questions about the tree, the way the fruit clustered,
and the state of the apples that fell.
Then he told me there were too many apples.
They were crowding each other.
He said that if we were to carefully twist off every other apple,
the apples that were left would grow large and healthy.
That was something to think about.
Twisting off healthy fruit for the sake of healthier fruit.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Dad Didn't


My Daddy.
Sometimes I think a lot about him.
He is sixty today.
He fathered two daughters before he got a son.
I am the first.
I got him when he had no experience.
When he was still young, and he worked so hard,
he was usually asleep in his chair before I went to bed.
He let my sister and me fill his hair with barrettes.
He chased us around the house on his hands and knees,
and tickled us when he caught us.
"Daddy! Play Tickle Monster!" we shrieked.
He let us ride his back and pretend he was a horse.
He has a broad, strong back,
and it was difficult for our little bodies to hang on and balance.
I loved him because he bought me a Tonka truck
that I could drive my Barbie around in.

He let me climb in the rafters of houses he was building.
Sometimes let me up on the roof with him.
But also reacted with alarm when he saw me go higher than I should have,
or act carelessly with things that required caution.

When Dad was building our first from-scratch house,
we lived in a garage he had built.
In laying a good foundation for the house,
he had to pump loads of soapy sand mixture into the footprint to level it.
I got home from school that day,
and my mom told me to dress in messy clothes and come help.
I think we were helping air bubbles to release or something,
but basically we were given permission to jump off the foundation walls
into a sloppy wet mudhole.
It was awesome.

He never acted like women and girls threatened him
with brains and opinions, or pink paint and flowers.
I remember when he was getting ready to teach out of John one day,
and he came to a passage Bible teachers argue about.
I was a teenager, and he read me the passage,
and asked me my opinion on it.
And then he listened to my answer.
We were not afraid to speak if we had something to say,
and he was never too puffed up to listen.
When he had sons, we weren't suddenly banished to the kitchen.
We were welcome around the dining table
when visiting pastors came to our house.

He corrected us calmly, when he had to do it.
Mom did more of the day to day instruction,
and he didn't undermine her authority with us.
He didn't come in and undo what she had asked of us.
He reinforced respect with his own respect.
He wasn't much of a voice-raiser, except when he was on the phone.
I wonder if his hearing was going,
because he always raised his voice to talk on the phone.

He is not a meddler in other men's business.
If asked, he gives wise counsel.
Sometimes he'll give wise counsel in spite of not being asked.
Usually because the consequences of the error being committed
are going to harm someone else.
But I have watched him teach things to other men,
and he teaches them in such a way that they feel like men
even though the mistake they are making is not too manly.

I wanted to be a building contractor when I grew up,
because my daddy was a building contractor.
I still want to be like him, but in my own woman-way.

My dad was so accepting of the personhood of his wife and daughters,
that I have found myself sideswiped a number of times
by men who claim to be Christians
and stomp down the personhood of the Christian women in their lives:
who shout them down if they speak truth.

My husband said to me one day,
"I think some men like to exchange 'shut up' for 'submit' in the Scriptures."
I'm glad my dad didn't.
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