In the beginning the earth was void- an empty space, a divot in the universe. God filled it, he filled it with life and light and flesh and breathe. And God made man. He formed his body from the dust of the earth. He brought forth an entirely natural being; filled him with God’s spirit, with nephesh, making man a living soul. That naked and dark space that he once filled with life became a murky, slimy, pocket of sin. But even so, God saw beautiful man standing there; made in his image, with potential for life even though dead. But then again that’s our God – the One who takes nothing and makes something.

Our driveway stretches from the street, beyond our parked cars, beyond our front door and our house, straight back to a my father-n-laws garage. He built that old gray garage which now has dirty doors and broken windows. before the driveway was there it was all grass- seamlessly joining our backyard with my in laws, who live diagonally behind us. We put the driveway in for my father n law, who, for 40 years, had driven over the grass, every Saturday to go cruising.
The excavator, when preparing to install the driveway, informed us there would be a dip about half way through where rain water may gather. Potentially creating puddles and other problems.

Every spring the trees release myriads of seeds, tiny, fluorescent buds, sprinkled as if from a celestial salt shaker, and progressively becoming a thick carpet beneath our feet. Above our driveway a maple tree looms releasing its treasure. In addition, this generous tree, houses caterpillars, who feast on its leaves, creating sinful vengeance in my heart, towards these little worms. As they chew and swallow, they digest and eliminate-all over my car and fill up that dip in the driveway with their poop.
This combination of ingredients, poop and seeds and rain- makes quite the picture. What forms in that depression, is a deep green, creamed soup-like covering.

My father n law spent a lot of time beneath that tree talking to us, mostly in the spring and summer. It just happened to be where he stood, in that hollowed space, not far from his garage. It just collected things I guess. He would stand in the driveway with the kids, watching them, asking them about their day, petting the cats. Arms crossed or hanging down limp by his side, sometimes his hands on his hips. If the day was warm and dry he would sit on the ground or squat to make eye contact with the children. There are a hundred ways I see him now each time I pull into the driveway.

Yesterday was May 1st. spring has arrived, the trees are blooming, color is everywhere, the pinks and whites of the dogwood trees brighten my wintry eyes; tulips which sleep at night, awaken each morning to greet my weary soul with friendly color; daffodils pop up with their pale presence, all competing against a bright blue sky. Deep, green grass, finally emerges from its colorless slumber. The air is warm and inviting, beckoning us to linger outdoors. The dark night of winter has finally passed and once again there is life. Tonight I arrived home late, the world was quiet and still, the spot light came on and shone on the driveway. I noticed the seeds have begun to fall, creating a gentle green carpet where the driveway dips. All the signs of spring and life , seeds and seedlings have gathered in their usual places searching for warm, soft soil , they settled on the driveway again, all except one. One life has found his resting place in the earth.

It was always a big deal when the sludge would start to form. It gave us a reason to gather, something to discuss. He would get a shovel, or a hose, and wash the poop away. While he was out there we would talk about how much the caterpillars eliminate, and how disgusting it was. It really is humorous the way we talked as if we had never seen it before, the way a New Englander talks about the snow and cold every winter. Every season is like the first for a New Englander, or is that as deep as we were able to get. Desperate to connect, but not knowing how. Perhaps it’s not the subject matter anyhow, but the life which emerges from interaction. It’s funny the little things that stay imprinted in your mind after death, once the coating has fallen off, the contents are revealed like little tidbits of time and routine and conversations, they become the meaning and the life which remains and multiplies.
He would make it his job to keep the driveway clear of slime that gathered. As I sat there last night paused in a moment of tearful contemplation, i wondered, ‘who will clear the sludge this year?’ Who will complain with me about the caterpillar poop? Who will be there to point out the undesirable habits of nature? Who will talk to the children, and pet the cat and who will we call Dad? It reminds me of him, in many ways, the bright green seeds scattered on the driveway, the sludge that gathers, and the spring. I keep looking up at his barren porch expecting to see him there, leaning over the railing, shirtless, just leaning, watching the kids, his white sneakers and tube socks and cutoff jeans. It’s amazing how powerful a simple presence can be.
It seems like a long time ago, a long time since he has stood there on the driveway, or cleared it, or discussed the newness of the season. We never discussed the wonder of the seeds though. Maybe we should have, the way they break through little, stony tombs, into the world above during this time of year, and life emerges. Perhaps we should have discussed the miracle of life, death, resurrection, and multiplication of things that die. The cycle which although seems awful, dark and painfully difficult produces much more than slime, eventually it produces life, vigor, nephesh. Did i ever tell him that?
The excavator said the driveway would dip a little gathering pools of rainwater. I suppose that’s how life is too. It caves in, it dips, it slopes this way and that; gathering sometimes things we don’t want, and sometimes things we don’t want to lose.

One thought on “naphesh

  1. It is beautifully written with heart. So proud that you are a person with such sensitivity to life even the little bits of it and to it’s cycle.

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