When I think back to the first ground I remember, I picture the yard of my Gramma’s farmhouse. It was often muddy, which was a delight for my toddler feet but likely a huge nuisance for her. My parents and I lived upstairs in that house during the earliest years I can remember. We would walk downstairs and into the “barn room”/mud room where all the boots, jackets, and outer remnants of farm life were stored in tall, wooden closets. The room had a pungent odor, as one can probably imagine. Even though our time living on the farm was relatively short, I have an affinity for that particular sensory experience. Immediately on the other side of that room, separated by an always closed door, was my Gramma’s kitchen. The scents there were familiar, homey, comfort foods in total contrast to the barn smells. Yet, they are linked in my mind, cemented during a time in my life where both were profoundly associated with home.
When I think about the Holy Ground of my earliest memories, though, it isn’t in the house itself. My earliest holy ground was the flower garden outside the barn. Whether it was amid the tall, lanky gladiola growing to be used in church urns, or the unfurling of magical moonflowers at dusk each summer night, I loved that space. My Aunt Joyce would work in the garden until she and the weeds would finally have an all-out battle and she’d call it quits. In the fall, we would dig up bulbs from the glads and hang them in repurposed nylon stocking bags in the cellar to avoid freezing under the winter snow. In their place, we might put in some tulip bulbs and daffodils we had split and separated. The spring bulbs would patiently wait under the snows, pushing their way up even before all the drifts had melted. My favorite were the tiny grape hyacinths that came back year after year; along with snowdrops and crocus, these would be the first sign after the long winter to remind us spring was returning. In the summer, the yearly return of hollyhocks would delight me, making the blossoms into dolls with remnant toothpicks sticking together the buds and the blooms.
What was holy about this ground? It was, and is, rich with history. I knew my Mom played in this yard as a child, and I still picture my cousins and I frolicking around, avoiding chores, making noise and being family together. It smelled of fresh grass, manure, sweet blossoms, and baking hay. It tasted of cow-fresh milk served in big pitchers, and the loganberry drink mix bought in big concentrated jars from the Schwann’s delivery man. It was holy with nature, family, daily struggles, and simple rewards. We all called that place home.
Today, even now, I realize how rare it is to really have a homestead that is such a shared memory for a whole family. Anyone in my maternal clan can say, “The farm” and we are right back in that space together, sharing that Holy Ground of our roots.
I am grateful tonight for that formative Holy Ground: my roots, my family, my memories.
In response to: Musical Reflection: The Holy Ground (RUNA) | Sacred Space at St. Thomas