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A Fresh Poem for the New Season

By March 21, 2014 No Comments

Reading The New Garden Book on the First Day of Spring

It takes courage to say, “The shrubs and grass
must go.” But courage is what’s needed.

This yard has fine trees, but the shrubbery
is scraggly and dull, the lawn patchy.

Vexing slopes, eroded soil, patchy turf.
The trash can is more necessary

than lovely. The stairs in the back
are a missed opportunity. Lacks charm.

A “before” nightmare!

Take stock, then: what do you have?
Write down all considerations.

Where do the shadows fall? How
do they change through the seasons?

On paper it is cheap and easy to try
any variety of dreams. Don’t restrict yourself.

Plant fruit trees in the sun. Take advantage
of microclimates. Put tender plants on the south side.

Plan ahead. Mistakes may not become glaring
reality for years, wasting all that growth.

For big or complicated jobs,
call in experts.


This is mostly a found poem based on lightly edited and rearranged phrases and sentences from pp. 28-31 of The Better Homes and Gardens New Garden Book (Des Moines: Meredith, 1990). Feeling inspired as the ice age recedes here in Michigan and reveals flattened, thatchy grass, scraggly shrubs, and thawing mud, I took this old book off the shelf yesterday and found myself impressed by its metaphysical profundity.

Debra Rienstra

I am a writer and literature professor, teaching literature and creative writing at Calvin University, where I have been on the faculty since 1996. Born and bred in the Reformed tradition, I’ve been unable to resist writing four books about theological topics: beware the writer doing theology without a license. My most recent book is Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth (Fortress, 2022). Besides the books, I’ve written well over two hundred essays for the RJ blog as well as numerous articles, poems, and reviews in popular and scholarly contexts. I have a B.A. from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers. I am married to Rev. Dr. Ron Rienstra, and together we have three grown children. Besides reading and writing, I love classical music, science fiction, fussing in the yard, hiking, and teaching myself useful skills like plant identification and—maybe someday—drywall repair.

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