Wendell Berry writes, “The soil under the grass is dreaming of a young forest, and under the pavement the soil is dreaming of grass.” The lines are part of short poem, “In A Country Once Forested,” about a young woodland remembering and dreaming of an old, long-gone, once sacred life. The changes of modern life have so effected Wendell’s country that the richness of a once simpler, fuller, sacred life has been decimated to low grazing grass, and even worst, subdued under the concrete platform of a cold, lifeless industrialized uniformity. The forest of growing dreams and strong ideals of full religious and social life has been chopped down to shadows of materialistic principles, shrinking of ideals and profanation of the sacred. And yet, the soil in Wendell’s poem is dreaming still, knowing what a forest is and waiting for a new birth.
When I read these lines, I am not sure if I am the grass or the pavement, the young forest or the soil. I see myself in all of them. I am the low-edging grass, a flagellate of life and dreams, barely perked up but not too far from the soil of my comfortable upbringing, cultural expectation, and uniform integration in my community. I tell myself I am at least above the ground. I lay safely in homogeneity, waiting for the soil to dream up other young trees to rise up and give me shade.
I am the pavement, often covering my own soul with critical layers of words and fears, judgments and limitations, one on top of the other. To want to grow in any direction is sometimes a forbidden dream. The very act of wanting to stretch a little higher, grow a little deeper, and reach a little wider stirs up old prejudices and defenses that are meant to keep a soul in hidden slumber and trapped paralysis. Every now and then, in judgement I reach out and pour this entrapping concrete all over others’ dreams, blinded by my own fears and enchained by my own limitations.
I want to be more like a young tree in a life-giving and God honoring forest. I see the humble majesty and the tremendous beauty forests give. If nothing more, I see the forests as an organ of making air and infusing growth into the world’s atmosphere. They crawl beneath the earth and rise above the ground, shooting into the open skies. Forests enrich us in more than one way. They give us perspective on time well spent, keep us focused on wise living, and remind us of our eternal purpose. I want to raise my children as trees in the forest—living for Eternity, following our Creator, and heading to Heaven. I strive to see them making an impact not by being different and unique, but by being brave to rise up in their life for Christ, forested and well-tended in the heavenly woods that stand up and out.
But of all the images, I pray to God I am molded more and more into that soil that never loses the ability to reach beyond today into eternity. I ask God to keep me reaching out to Him in every season I find myself under. I plead with my Creator to always give me vision to pursue His Kingdom on earth and in Heaven. To dream His dreams beyond the grasses and through the pavement. To impart His good news to small grasses and young trees alike. To nurture roots and shatter concrete. To be the soil He wants me to be so His seeds will grow into beautiful trees that shelter birds and nest babies. I pray to God that He will enrich me with His Spirit and His Words to tend to my young children until they, too, are firmly rooted and marvelously grown trees in the forest of Heaven.