By Rev. Kurt Condra
Tromping though muck and mud in fishing boots and rubberized gloves at daybreak was mom's idea, NOT mine! Yet here I was, cursing the futility and questioning the wisdom of the endeavor: Clear the marshy patch of weeds that had overgrown the stone-covered riverbank at the south edge of mom's lawn.
In the moment I could not comprehend why this chore was so important to her. Environmentally, we were destroying a natural filtration system that screens toxins from rainwater runoff fouled by the highway and car lot up the hill. Aesthetically, there's a strong case for the natural beauty of permaculture design. And besides, it'll all get washed out when the river floods next spring, anyway.
It was only later, driving back to Chicago, that I got it: For 63 of her 83 years on the planet, mom has lived on the Salk River in Branch County, Michigan. The stone bank? She built it herself with rocks from a neighbor's fields; by hand; over much of the last decade. It's where family and loved ones gathered in 2019 to celebrate her brother's life and scatter his ashes. It is sacred ground. Maintaining it is soulful work.
Through danger, toil and strife, may we recognize the ground on which we stand is ALWAYS sacred (perhaps, especially when it's muckiest).