It’s Sunday evening on my back porch. The sticky heat has finally burned away and there’s a breeze stirring the sweetgums that will drop their spiky balls over my driveway and make my husband sigh. I’m snapping beans, first one end, then the other, then in half to fit in the pot. Snap, snap, pop. The rhythm is steady and sure. Repetition for the hands and soul.
By this time of summer the garden’s overgrown with weeds but we’ve got a baby watermelon still hanging onto the vine. Maybe it will make it before we plow the whole thing under and start again. Fall plantings. Greens and kale and perhaps a bit of broccoli though it never produces enough to really make anything.
The steadiness, though, that’s why we do this. Plant, grow, harvest. Turn and repeat. Because when nothing makes sense in this world, at least there’s beans to snap.
My good friend buried her mama last week. We stood in her kitchen and ate banana pudding and looked through picture albums, sepia-toned, of a life well-lived which ended unexpectedly. There’s a pot of plants, all lush and evergreen, on my dining table. A sympathy gift my parents sent for my husband’s grandfather’s funeral. This morning I mixed biscuits in a bowl taken from their kitchen. He brought home things which remind him of them—worn blankets, a toothpick holder, a faded hot chocolate mug.
Nothing makes sense when we think about it.
Like how a man I’ve known since first grade could serve tours in Iraq as a Marine, yet lose his life in the line of duty as a Code Enforcement Officer in sleepy little Augusta, Georgia.
So I snap beans and whisper prayers. For Lorraine Case and her children. For Chip’s mama, Mary, who put up with my brother in RAs at First Baptist. For Hope and her brothers as they see their daddy through a world without her mama. For every one of us who’s lost someone this year. For every one of us who hasn’t and fears the inevitable.
Then I take those beans inside and put them on the stove. Open up the fried chicken fresh from the deli, laugh at a picture of my parents’ puppy, smile at the texts of my sisters divvying up Christmas décor because someone is moving out and someone is moving in. I cut peaches for my kids and pack the lunches for Monday morning and check the temperature of the one who already has back-to-school strep.
Tomorrow I’ll wipe down tables between class changes and listen for a bell. I’ll come home and cut squash and zucchini and roast kabobs and walk in the dwindling twilight. Then we’ll go to bed and get up and do it all over again.
Because, praise Jesus, I have to believe better days are coming. That this world which makes no sense will right itself back on its axis, even if it’s just for a day. Just long enough for us to catch our breath, till a new garden, snap a few beans.
And thank God for the gifts that are fleeting but lasting, held forever in the rhythm of our hearts.
–original publication by The Elberton Star, August 2020