The Orange ‘46

Dave Smith

I ride.  A simple thing, really.  Push the tall pedal, shove the engage lever, double check the height bar, and off I go.  Fresh scent, green cuttings spew from the deck outlet and what should be 4 hours of monotony begins.  I shift my sit to the fender to accommodate the slope of the ditch, me now nothing more than a counterweight balance and entertainment for those passing by.  A honk, a wave, covered eyes, hands clasped as if praying – yea, I generate a focus and it adds fun to that part of this job I really don’t relish.  Lots of what ifs on this stretch, like wet grass and sliding, tossed trash, broken tar pieces, culverts, and the seemingly too steep spots. But I roll on through, then chase the orange tractor’s tail around the pines and hardwoods, dodge the septic vents and that trying to be hidden water doohickey tucked in the grass near the Nursery School entryway.  Not much adventure on the “back 40,” just pretty much a straight stretch of thick, long, fertilized greenery and an occasional dandelion.  Once in a while I stir up a rabbit or annoy a Killdeer who immediately begins the “chase me, chase me” antic of nest protection.  With headset covering my ears to deaden the slightly muffled Briggs under the hood, I fall into a steady wander of think joining the droning hummm under me, the whirrrred whinnne of blades and the occasional chunk of a branch or some such quickly obliterated object.  The other guys who mow, Tom, Andy, and Bill, have bigger, zero-steer equipment that greatly shortens the cut time, but I enjoy my hours of dawdle.  They never really achieve “monotony.”

The outdoor altar and Pastor Jake’s successful effort to create a fire pit generate good memory.  The altar has seen better days – a tad wobbly now and caringly moved to the edge of the lot line.  On some occasions, I travel behind the big pine on the corner just to see how much dust or what kind of cutting I can stir up.  Usually more bugs than anything.  The new garden and its success last summer awaits cultivation and planting, now a bit weed strewn and in need of removing last season’s growths.  Soon I think – then I can watch the growing and the ripening as happy hands nurture the plot.  The old shed needs some work and I do have firsthand knowledge of wasp nest locations.  A summer ago, the collected soda cans carefully bagged inside provided a buzzed melody of irritated hornets unhappily caught in the sweetness.  But mostly, with the sky and the drift of clouds, the easy move of heavy branches, the wrap of breeze around the corners and through my hair, and the spirit that accompanies me, I enjoy this part of my work at VELC.

Oh, this is far from a Garden of Eden thing, far from a dodge the fruit of the tree ride around a euphoric paradise.  The cut lines get crooked sometimes or I forget the recent rain and sink a black track at the slope’s bottom edge – I hit a stone or run across an edge of lot marking rod flattened by the snow plow.  My thoughts in those moments aren’t a “shucks oh golly gee” sort of think.  For the most part, though, I do find an aura here on this large, green lawn.  Not really a “I can touch it” feeling, but a sense of the place, as Pastor Jake often said, being “holy ground.”  I think of those, since this building came to be, that walked, talked, worked, and prayed here.  The ancestors of our faith that built, planted, cared – laughed, ran, played, and cried – in consort with our Lord and Savior.  I envision Bible School frolic, the tribes that grew from an idea. I wonder how many have walked away grief out here for just a few minutes to get away from the mourning of a funeral, to find the Holy Spirit and the Comfort of Christ.  I try to see that one soul, weary from the hand mower, leaning against a young tree trunk, a perspiration stained flannel and matted hair awaiting a dump from the water jar.  I guess I don’t see “yard work,” don’t feel monotony.  I feel what faith can do when even just a few gather, worship, and work in God’s name.  May God richly bless our summer season.