The Soldier and the Seed

This May has been more busy than the one I wrote about below. I’ve attended baby showers, entertained a whole host of job and ministry possibilities and helped my husband prep for interviews, driven out of town to share a talk at a women’s retreat, read three books, hot-glued a polar bear habitat for my son’s school project, written an article for the High Calling, dreamed up an easy breezy summer session for The Story Circle (I need it!), taken a day trip to the Detroit passport agency to rush renewal for a crazy opportunity that got dropped in our lap (I’ll tell you more about that soon!), stayed overnight with some of our favorite people in southern Indiana and hiked the trails of Brown County together, said farewell to friends moving out of town, celebrated half a dozen birthdays of family and friends, and somehow managed not to spontaneously combust. So, once again, we’re just now getting to the yard work. The piece below, a memorial of my soldier poet grandfather that I wrote two years back, has a lot to say to me now in our current circumstance as my husband and I try to discern what dreams must die so that the most vibrant versions of ourselves can sprout and grow to fruition. I’d love to know how my grandfather’s poem speaks to you.

stitching

Usually, I take to the garden around Mother’s Day. I put a seedling in soil, see my reflection in the silver of the garden spade, and think on where I am in the work of cultivating my children. My husband and I plant and water and know all the while that it’s God who causes the increase.

This year I was a late bloomer. May kept me on the move: a weekend trip to visit my newborn nephew in the Southwest, back home quick for extended family birthday parties, a friend’s baby dedication and a hectic Mother’s Day, leading worship at a local women’s conference, and an overnight trip with friends to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. All these things left my veggie garden blank as an old battlefield.

Finally, here at the end of May, on Memorial Day, the schedule says “plant”. The context leads to a whole different kind of contemplation.

I hold a seed in hand, a tiny apostrophe that hints at hidden things. I dunk it in water and pinch it between my fingertips, feel its smallness. With this, I need no spade. I need only to punch my thumb into the black dirt and bury it.

Every time I do this, old words sprout fresh in my mind, the words of a soldier poet.

Even as the seed must die
To yield the noble tree
So must I in earnest try
To yield a part of me

This is when the swords are beat back into plowshares. We lay down our arms, give in, not submitting to an enemy, but rather yielding ourselves to the fulness of who we are meant to be.

When the light beams strong and hits at perfect angles, when all the conditions are right, the seed lets down its guard and welcomes water. It surrenders itself in baptism. It soaks in droplet upon droplet until it can bear no more. Then, it bursts open, new life coming up.

In each and every line I write
I give, then live, then lose
To feel the thrill, the stir of life
Within the poem’s hues

My grandfather, part of The Greatest Generation, knew this truth from his boyhood on the farm, that the seed must lose itself before it can bear fruit. This means something for the soldier who gives to the point of shedding his own blood, the poet who must let go and share the soul in vulnerability, and even the parent, who a hundred times each day must die to personal desires in order to nurture needy little ones underfoot. Every surrender is a planting.

There is within my poetry
A soft, still, sweet release
But as the seed dies for the tree
The poet, too, must cease

In my garden on Memorial Day, a picture of sacrifice settles in. Under the soil in a matter of days, hidden suffering will burst into sweet release. Here, a tiny seed gives itself up and goes down to its grave, soon to be raised in glory.

{“Germination” by Duane Burl Stimer (1924-2006)}

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3 thoughts on “The Soldier and the Seed

  1. The granddaughter doesn’t fall far from the Grandpa Soldier Poet. His words are beautiful and your words in between equally beautiful. I enjoy being a recipient of your gift and today of the Soldier Poet’s gift.

  2. What a beautiful post! It is obvious your grandfather has left a wonderful legacy in and through you, Darcy! Great reminder that our life here on earth is to be lived by realizing we must die to self!

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