This is the second part of a series on the color brown and seeing things as they really are. Read the introduction to the series.
With the first step out my door, I notice brown. Leaves, leftover debris from an unfinished fall cleanup, littered the snow. In fact I remembered my husband’s comment as he shoveled the last storm: “I forgot these leaves were even here!”
Turns out, debris that isn’t cleaned up initially shows up when you start moving things around. Literally, as when you are trying to deal with one issue (snow), another issue is churned up (leaves from last fall), but also figuratively, as when you are talking to your spouse about one thing (dinner) and you end up arguing about another (say, why he always squeezes the toothpaste). These churned up leaves stemmed from our own efforts: in an attempt to clean up one situation, we discovered leftover brown stuff that needed to be dealt with.
Further along my walk, I noticed lumps of dark earth, roughly scraped along the edge of the road. Probably from a plow, doing it’s routine work. Possibly just collateral damage – the road curves and the plow may not have been able to clearly identify the boundary of what to plow and what to leave alone. Perhaps the driver was tired – or careless – but maybe he was just doing his job.
Either way, clumps of brown churned up earth sat along the side of the road. Not very pretty at all, but I did pause to examine. Nothing useful, or beautiful, or even insightful came to me, as I stared at brown clumps. But in that in the pausing and examining, I gained a little compassion. Poor dirt was just minding it’s own business when along comes a plow and – BAM! Everything’s all churned up. Some things are churned up through no fault of our own, and maybe we ought to be gentle with those things.
Whenever outside forces conspire to churn up internal fears and questions, there is an opportunity to examine them, gently if we can. This churning up reveals what lies underneath, and it opens up a chance to begin to see the complexity of our inner lives and to enter into a dialogue with these parts of ourselves.
Whether the churning up is caused by us or done to us, this is the first gift of brown; the opportunity to see what has been churned up, and to treat these things gently.