Once upon a time in a far, far away land, there lived a little bunny. This little bunny lived in her home with her Mommy bunny, her Daddy bunny and all her little bunny sisters. One day...
So began the beginning of the many stories I told our daughters as they cuddled up in the bed beside me. Little Bunnies seemed to always have a big problem and their mamas always seemed to have a true and honorable cure. Bunnies always lived far, far away but they were really inhabitants of our own back yard.
And so it is with this bunny, my inspiration for this story. Pictured on the inside of a chamomile tea box, she sits below the quote,
“There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.” -Celia Thaxter
Summer and harvest seem so far away in the barrenness of this winter, but healing and fruitfulness is truly in my own back yard. It is in the soil of gratefulness.
Soil can be rich, vital, a seedbed of growth, living, organic and fertile.
But being soiled- all those definitions get turned upside down in the compost of my own back yard.
‘Soiled’ is poor, listless, a heap of shriveling roots, dying, unnatural and infertile.
Soil. Earthy. Dust. Mud. Dirty. Damaged. Soiled.
How do we move so fast from cultivating soil to being soiled? How do we move from gratefulness to ingratitude so quickly? How do we start with the fresh tender soil and end with the defeat of being soiled?
One of my favorite high school memories is staying overnight with a friend who lived in the country. She was more free spirited than I. We stayed up late talking, certainly sharing our deepest secrets of the time. It rained that night and we awoke to puddles and puddles of mud on a morning walk. With a glint in her eyes, she threw the first mud bomb. I, the next. We had a full on mud fight with fresh soil after a fresh rain. It was one of the most liberating and hysterical moments of my teen years. Laughter ensued. We were covered head to toe. It stained our shoes. It stained our clothes. We were soiled. But it was the kind of soil that washed off. It was the kind of soiling that cleanses the soul with laughter. I’m smiling now just thinking about the fun.
I showered in their basement bathroom. On the way up the stairs, I noticed a video laying about her Dad’s man cave. The title struck me as odd- I naively and innocently questioned my friend. It was then that I think I met personally my first friend who was being sexually abused. I saw shame come about her face. She flushed with a blush indicative of the secrets she intended to keep. She shrugged it off quickly. She changed the subject. It took me years to place all the puzzle pieces together — our relationship dwindled— she took on the many stereotypical characteristics of one in those circumstances. And I knew I had gotten too close to the mud. I had thrown a mud bomb of inquisitiveness that revealed she was soiled. The worst kind of soiling.
It seems that abuse brings with it that feeling of being soiled. I even think that illness and chronic health problems can bring that feeling as well. I am damaged. Something is wrong with me. I need fixed. I am dirty. I am bad. I am soiled. The worst kinds of soiling.
Abuse throws mud bombs that aren’t easily washed off. Life throws mud bombs that don’t cleanse the soul with laughter but stain the soul with grief. Puddles and puddles of dirty water become land mines to navigate. Stale water puddles mixed with the dry dust of our past become a mud fight that is more a blood-bath battle of survival than the good clean fun of childhood.
And we must return to the soil. The soil of gratitude. We must leave behind the idea that ‘I am soiled.’ What a hard idea to leave behind.
Henri Nouwen writes,
"Gratitude is not a simple emotion or an obvious attitude. It is a difficult discipline to constantly reclaim my whole past as the concrete way in which God has led me to this moment a