Monday, April 22, 2024

An Education in Clover

As my eyes scanned the neighborhood street, I observed the irony. The yards that some people fastidiously poured time, money, and chemicals into were barren. These lawns looked dead, lifeless, and empty. However, the other yards—those lawns belonging to people who didn’t pour time, money, and chemicals into them—looked very different. Overgrown with flower-touched weeds and bursts of clover, these yards were full of life. Bees hummed as they hovered above the white clover puffs and butterflies flitted back and forth.

In some yards, there was vibrant life—and in others, desolation and death. Perhaps this is too dramatic (a yard is just a yard, isn’t it?); yet, I wonder if we can learn something from a clover-filled yard. 

I look into my own backyard as I sit her in the dining room, and I see an ocean of clover. Each year, the clover has been spreading more and more across that space. This abundance of clover has brought an incredible amount of joy to our family. Over the past several days, my children have spent hours upon hours playing and rolling in the clover. The clover is deep and thick, in some areas rising well above my ankles. It is soft and silky and delightful. Joyous smiles light up the faces of my children as they play, and I join them in sharing this bliss. The clover in a yard is a gift to us--and it also is a gift to others. 

Life pours into our backyard, seeking out this clover.


Birds swoop across the yard, sometimes stopping to bury their beaks in the earth. Robins, a cardinal, and a plethora of birds I cannot yet identify, in shades of gray, black, and orange. They hop across the yard, barely visible as they hide behind the green long green stems. 

My children dash outside, butterfly nets in hand. “Watch out for the bees!” I call, as they dance around in the spaces where less clover lingers. I fling myself into a thick patch of deep green clover and watch as they go to work: The bees and their clover, my children and their pursuit of butterflies. By the day’s end, one of my children has caught-and-released ten butterflies.

There is an abundance of life and joy in our simple backyard.

Then there are the cries. The back door opening, and one of the children informing us that someone finally got stung. I’m stirring a pot of soba noodles, so my husband dashes out to remove the stinger. By the time he’s done, and the child shakily walks inside, the noodles are cooked and drained. I turn my attention to the little one. Settling him in a chair, I bring over a baking soda paste.

“It’s just like frosting for cinnamon rolls!” I declare. His tear-stained face scrunches into a smile and he laughs and laughs as I spread paste over his toe and wrap his foot in a cloth. "Yum, yum, cinnamon rolls!" I declare again as he laughs even harder. 

Pain and joy and laughter all tangled together. 

Is this the lesson my backyard holds for me this year? 

If we pull our hands back, refusing to micromanage the earth, our clover will spring up and spread. It may look unconventional and unpolished, as far as yards go, yet
 there is an abundance of life here. That life may bring pain--even if we're careful and try to sidestep those busy bees--but it also brings joy and beauty. 

"Glory be to God for dappled things," Gerard Manly Hopkins once wrote. As I gaze outside this springtime, I am compelled to add: "Glory be to God for clover-filled yards."

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