Stomping manure is not my favorite exercise, but it had to be done, and I was the girl for the job.
Last Friday I spent a great deal of time dancing on top of manure as if at a grape-crushing party. Of course, I didn't do it in my bare feet. That would be some kind of pedicure! I did it in an old pair of sneakers that are very likely to end up in the garbage can by the curb in the near future.
Why did I develop this intimate relationship with animal waste? I was putting in a winter lawn. And considering that I gave up on my summer lawn last winter - because I believe with all my heart that bermuda grass is what grows in hell - putting in fresh grass was quite the exciting if exhausting venture.
I scalped the demon grass by hand where it persisted in several patches across the yard despite the fact that I have neglected it for months. I used a hard rake to scrape up the disaffected soil. I spread seed and fertilizer as my Yorkie attacked my manual spreader, making the seed dump out in piles that I later hand-tossed. The flexible rake was then used to spread my seed and fertilizer more evenly.
Then came the manure, five bags of it. I knew pretty quick that a. I was dang tired already as I hugged the smelly bags and tried to distribute them evenly, and b. that I didn't have nearly enough excrement to go around my big yard. I tried my best with what I had, shaking out clumps of manure and the occasional wood chip and large rock. In the end my paltry if incredibly stinky supply of manure was not enough to keep the birds away from my seed.
So that afternoon after a shower that couldn't possibly make me feel clean, I purchased more manure, 15 bags of it exactly, to dump on my yard, keeping the birds, our neighbors and our neighborhood's roaming cats away.
My darling husband and son lugged the heavy bags into the yard, spacing them out nicely. And that evening I cut open the bags with my demoted kitchen scissors and dragged them in a snake pattern across small areas. Again I grabbed my soft rake and spread that manure out beautifully. As I spotted large miscreant clumps, I stomped on them mightily and repeatedly, figuring that if my arms could be so weary with this labor of yard love, then my legs might as well be, too.
It was my first time attempting a winter lawn. Would all my work be for naught?
This whole week I have watched my yard between deep waterings, waiting for some sign of new life. And this whole week I have been struggling with a loss of hope in other, more vital areas of my life. I needed to see the little blades of rye grass in an almost spiritual way. I needed some symbol of hope, some payoff for all my imperfect but valiant efforts.
And yesterday I saw them, appearing overnight it seemed, sage green, delicate sprouts. Gorgeous and very welcome they were! My hope was renewed with them. My heart swelled with pride for my work. I showed them to my kids and man excitedly, gratefully. I paroled the perimeter of my yard with my Yorkie, bending down to peer sideways into new, tiny life.
For days I had stared at a yard full of manure anxiously, seeing only that seed had not, and possibly would not, sprout. And now? Fulfillment of promise.
My yard is a lesson in life, I think. At least I got something deeper from it. As I reflected on my relief and joy in a new lawn yesterday, I realized that we human beings need seeds of a good life planted, too, by God, our parents, our teachers and other role models, and we definitely need the fertilizer of compassion, education, experience, and good relationships. But we also need manure, those often stinky and sticky situations, those many challenging and often unexpected times, that occasional or frequent interior turmoil. We need those things even if they obscure the seed and the fertilizer for a while, because in the end we spring up fuller and taller and stronger than we were before. We become resilient.
And we appreciate the little things in life, like a winter lawn, even more.