Yesterday, I was out in the backyard with my dog when I noticed something sticking out of the ground. It looked a little bit like part of a broom handle, but the dirt around the end of it was still frozen enough that I couldn’t dislodge it. Since I’ve lived here only five months, and I’ve never had a broom with a red handle, I began to wonder where it came from.

Other things have come out of the ground in recent days. Two days ago, I found a bottle cap covered in dirt, and a little blue plastic piece of something showed up a couple of weeks ago. With the alternate snow, ice, thaw, and freeze, it would come and go on my radar. Yesterday I finally decided to pick it up and throw it in the garbage.

I’ve been noticing the ground more lately since the title and deed to this little plot claim I’m the one responsible for it. For instance, last fall, I pulled up bags full of some kind of viney ground cover that was choking out the grass around my big tree in the back yard. The vegetation had even made its way further into the lawn where the previous tenants had constructed a fire pit. It was full of old bricks and charred pieces of wood along with all kinds of garbage. While I was raking and cleaning up the yard last October, I decided to haul away all of these things too.

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In the past few months, though, with a warmer than usual winter, and a lot of rain rather than snow, I’ve discovered that the sump pump from my crawl space empties right into the very area that I cleared of all vegetation. I had sewn some grass seed over the area last fall, but since it hadn’t had a chance to grow, the bare area took on more water from the sump pump than it would have naturally. Now, instead of infectious ground cover, I have gullies and troughs, sure signs of ground erosion.

As spring slowly emerges and the snow and ice finally melt, the thawing earth begins to reveal anew the misdeeds of previous seasons. Things left carelessly around, like broom handles and bottle caps, will surface again and become hazards to trip over if I don’t remove them. Damage from things removed without wisdom and knowledge of the ground itself, like viney ground cover, needs to be replaced by sowing seeds of good vegetation. And this work begins slowly as the temperatures warm and the days grow longer.

Today, I worked out in the yard about 30 minutes, picking up sticks and removing the various found objects that the earth has rejected. In just that short amount of time, my lower back started to ache a little from all the bending and stretching, and I got a little winded from walking back and forth to the stick pile. Later, when I was talking to my mom on the phone, we both agreed that it was good that Spring came slowly at first so that we can get in shape for the work warm weather calls for.

We’ve been examining ourselves during this Lenten season for more than two weeks now. Misplaced objects from the past are shifting to the surface of our hearts, and areas of neglect or unwise decisions are becoming obvious. There is work to be done in making them right , but we have to approach these tasks slowly, gradually gaining the endurance for the greater spiritual work ahead.