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The spade slices into the hard ground, disturbing a path of busy black ants, sending them scurrying in all directions. The upturned soil which has slumbered for many seasons, is suddenly exposed to the glaring sunlight and fresh air of a humid summer morning, and to my attention. I work the reddish brown clods, breaking some with my spade, smashing some in my fist. When the area is prepared, I begin picking through iris rhizomes, separating out those less robust and set them aside. Aware that deep, hot, August is a risky time for planting, I choose the ones with ample roots and the most promise. I carefully place them into impressions in the softened bed, covering them with dirt and guarded optimism.

Since moving into our new home, I’ve been the happy recipient of plants shared from friends’ prolific gardens. A small corner of full shade has been brightened with white- streaked, emerald green Hostas shared by Charlie and Marilee; a raised bed in full sunlight now nurtures daylilies and canna lilies from Cathy and Dave’s beautiful naturalized yard, the slender leaves and stalks spiking up through the ivy. Cheryl brought several cuttings of winter jasmine, which are now striving to grow in the area above a brick retaining wall, aspiring to grow enough to spill over in brilliant yellow display early next spring. Looking around this space, my heart smiles…. I am surrounded by the beauty of friendship.

My thoughts turn to these treasured friends from our church community. My husband and I count them among life’s best gifts. With them, we have worshipped and studied, discussing matters of faith, stretching the boundaries of beliefs into more mature and expanded ways of spirit; we have laughed during meals shared and worked side by side in activities tending to needs of the greater community; we have encouraged one another, listened to one another, rejoiced over the birth of grandchildren, prayed together in moments of somber quiet.

It has been two years since we clung to one another in shocked disbelief over the sudden death of our beloved pastor, Gary. Reeling in our sorrow, brokenness disoriented our congregation… we could no longer set our compass with Gary as our ‘true north’ leader. Loss, then more loss has left us grasping for direction. Grief shared and endured with these dear friends, we somehow journey the path toward healing. With Gary’s legacy planted in our hearts, holding fast with solidarity, and recognizing we have much to do, our church community continues sharing life and hope for tomorrow. Under the leadership and care of our recently- hired senior minister, we step forward again, looking to our future, together.

Brushing wayward ants off my wrist, I reach into the bag of rhizomes and select one from the tangle of dried, curling roots. Who could imagine that this gnarly, dead-looking stub of a root, if surrounded by nurturing soil, given rain and sun and time, could come back to life?

Autumn will be followed by winter, then spring will arrive and I know that irises will rise from the once barren clods where I kneel on the ground today.