underground – adverb | \ˌən-dər-ˈgrau̇nd\
: below the surface of the earth
: in or into a place that is hidden or secret : out of the view of the public
On Easter Sunday, while the adults lounged lazily after an enormous pitch-in luncheon and the children ran and bounced and laughed off their Easter candy high, my dad led me into the garage to see four little pots where he had started some tomato plants to transplant to his garden once the warm weather breaks for good.
“Do you want some seeds?” he asked after he told me about his starts.
“Sure,” I said, and he hopped up and headed to the garage to retrieve what I thought would be a seed packet. Instead, he emerged with a folded paper towel wrapped in a ziplock sandwich bag. “Ky Yellow Seeds” were written on the front with a black marker.
“Did you save the seeds?” I asked, imagining my dad cutting open an overripe late fall tomato and painstakingly separating the tiny yellow seeds covered in mucilage.
“No, my friend George did,” he explained. “They are Kentucky Yellows. Take these and plant all of them, and then share the plants with other people.”
“Are they heirlooms?” I asked. My dad nodded. “So we’ll be propagating an heirloom?” He nodded again.
“Cool,” I said, waiting for the little baggy to self-destruct now that I had my mission.
I had been thinking about seeds since the night before when we participated in our church’s Easter vigil. While I have attended dozens of Good Friday services over the years, Saturday night had never been part of my Holy Week observances. The whole time we were listening to readings and singing hymns and choruses, I couldn’t help but think that Jesus was still in the tomb. Not really. It’s been a couple of millennia since the resurrection. But back then, after the disciples watched their leader and friend crucified as a criminal, when his body was whisked away and soldiers stationed to avoid scandal, when the women were just finishing Shabbat and gathering spices and perfumes to take to the tomb the following morning, Jesus was still dead. The Resurrection had not yet come. The whole operation, Jesus’ entire ministry and life’s work, had gone underground, both literally and figuratively.
All I could think of that night while we kept our symbolic vigil was this: unless a seed falls to the earth and dies …
The verse goes on, of course. Jesus himself is the one who promised that “unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over” (John 12:24, MSG). But the germination process takes patience, while the dying seed and the new life get worked out biologically underground. Germination requires faith, trusting that the process which has always worked — which almost always works — will indeed work again this time. And germination fosters hope: something better is coming. Coming, but not yet here.
We finished our Saturday vigil and celebrated Easter, of course, with vigorous hallelujahs and massive amounts of chocolate. I ran as fast as the boys did (or nearly as fast) during the Sunday afternoon Easter egg hunt my dad and Brenda prepared just for the 12 and over crowd. I kissed and hugged the babies and helped my nephew Sawyer break open the packaging from one of his Easter basket gifts. And on the way home, I found a chocolate hand print on the hem of my dress.
Then today, I planted George’s Kentucky Yellow tomato seeds. I covered them with a bit of peat, watered them down, and placed the container in the window sill where they will get the most light and have the best chance to grow.
And over and over again we wait for the resurrections and the hallelujahs and chocolate hand prints that reveal life many times over. “We live by mercy if we live,” writes Wendell Berry in his 1995 IV Sabbath poem.
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Definitions of my word of the week are from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.