Posts Tagged ‘hope’

The first time I really took much notice was when she was lying on the sidewalk. We went over and presented her with the standard cliché. She said she was, and we helped her get up, and she hobbled off.

I had my office manager email the city. I had images in my mind of them coming out and pouring a cement square and calling it a day. They didn’t. Instead we got a letter in the mail saying that it was our responsibility to fix the problem.

“What?” I said on the phone to the city official, “We own the sidewalk?”

What it really came down to was the tree. Our tree cracked the sidewalk so it was our responsibility to get it fixed. There often seems to be a discrepancy in life, between what we want and what we get.

Actually, the whole thing started about forty years ago because of the sun. Someone decided to solve the problem of the sun shining too much in the west-facing windows of the church. In a moment of brilliance they took a little potted tree, dug a hole about ten feet from the side-walk, right in front of the windows, and put it in the ground. It was a good solution, it worked well for quite some time, but the problem solvers didn’t imagine the end result — another problem. It’s often like that with people who plant trees — they lack the prophetic gift.

When the company we hired came and broke up the sidewalk, all sixty feet off it, they uncovered root work —  forty years of it. Huge python-like roots were exposed, some six inches in diameter, lurking along a sixty foot span of walk, uplifting the cement from two to three inches, creating a trip hazard, eventually upending an older woman.

The fix cost the church close to $7,000 — the removal of the 35 foot tree, the removal of sixty feet of walk, the pouring of the new sidewalk and curb, the purchase of new landscape — non-root invasive.

There is often a discrepancy between what we want and what we get. We want someone to fix a problem; we are required to fix the problem. We want shade, we get a bill for $7,000.

I’ve noticed the discrepancy lately. Recently the son of a friend of mine committed suicide. We were stunned, knocked sideways, and run over by this. I went to the memorial service and came back home kicked in the head. This wasn’t what we wanted. We wanted life; we got a brutal death. A mom planted a tree. The roots broke the sidewalk. There is no fix.

There is a discrepancy in life between what we want and what we get. There is an uplift, a break, a gap and we fall on it, or into it and we don’t much care for lying on the concrete.

I don’t quite know what to do, but one thing comes to mind. What we can’t fix we can love. I love my friends left. I love the good that was in the little boy who grew up and then gave up. I love fixing the things I can.

The discrepancy remains, but it doesn’t overwhelm us, because other things remain too, a new sidewalk, a new tree, new friends, good memories, bravery — love.

Last evening I spent a bit of time in a mud puddle in the middle of a dirt road. It was about six feet long, two feet wide, very muddy, with some green algae hanging around the edges. I peered in. One of the children on the other side  of the pool scooped some dirty water out with a small, clear plastic container.

“Ah,”  no exotic vernal pool species showed up, no fairy shrimp, only tadpoles about the size of short grain rice. Somebody else peering into the mud said cynically, “They probably won’t make it.” Life didn’t look promising here.  There was no mesa mint blooming at the edge of the puddle, only some tiny brass buttons in the grass a few feet away.

So where were the shrimp? If they were around, then they were still in the hardpan below the water,  in a cryptobiotic state.  They have sensed — not enough water.

Cryptobiosis is the state of life entered by a oganism in response to adverse environmental conditions such as drying. In the cryptobiotic state, all metabolic procedures stop, preventing reproduction, development, and repair. An organism in a cryptobiotic state can essentially live indefinitely until environmental conditions return to being hospitable. When this occurs, the organism will return to its metabolic state of life as it was prior to the cryptobiosis.

Smart, those shrimp. They knew it hadn’t rained enough. They were hanging out cryptobiotically. 

And the tadpoles, they had launched, optimistically, and they were frolicking in the vernal puddle, getting ready to become spadefoot toads. Rain is predicted for next weekend. It just might be enough to fill the puddle again, to give the tadpoles time.

I’m impressed. Tadpoles thrive in inhospitable places.

They had launched here, they had hatched with an expectation, with a kind of biological  faith in their survival. And for the moment, they were powering their way up and down their muddy lake, gaining weight and strength.

I thought of us, the living, here in the puddle of our now. We too have launched. This is it. Our present puddle is our present place to paddle.  We don’t have a choice to hang out cyrptobiotically and wait to become shrimp. This is our time.

Today we flip our fins through our own oddly chosen muddy creases in the earth and imagine ourselves someday getting out, onto land, and hopping off as spadefoots into the lovely brass buttons in the nearby grass.

What to do?


Mud puddle theology: We are not shrimp in a cryptobiotic state.


Mud puddle theology: We did not make the puddle we paddle through.


Muddle puddle theology: We do not know exactly when it will rain again and how much.   


Mud puddle theology: We have been given the power of movement.


There is inside of us a kind of built-in hope for more rain.

Flip, hopefully.