Earth Covered Grace

Van Gogh's Irises

For the New Year, 1981
by Denise Levertov

I have a small grain of hope–
one small crystal that gleams
clear colors out of transparency.

I need more.

I break off a fragment
to send you.

Please take
this grain of a grain of hope
so that mine won’t shrink.

Please share your fragment
so that yours will grow.

Only so, by division,
will hope increase,

like a clump of irises, which will cease to flower
unless you distribute
the clustered roots, unlikely source–
clumsy and earth-covered–
of grace.

Last year my sister-in-law brought several paper bags full of iris roots resting quietly in clumps of dirt–dry misshaped feet and fingers crippled with potential. We were late getting them into the ground but their grace was forgiving. They took hold and transformed our little courtyard into a Van Gogh landscape. They will continue to gladden our hearts until we divide them someday to pass on their gift of beauty to another garden. This act– “by division, will hope increase”–feels radical yet that is exactly what God did in sending His Son to become earth-covered.

A part of God was broken off to put down roots, grow, thrive and be divided, over and over and over again to increase the beauty and grace for those of us limited to this soil. Our garden will bloom so all can see and know: hope lives here.

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