A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
It was hard work today, transplanting things that should have been dug up more than a month ago. But today was the day. Snow was coming, and that prospect forced action. A bank of Shasta daisies, four variegated grasses and a sage bush had to be relocated to make way for a stone wall. Every perennial in a summer pot had to be sunk in the ground—two rosemary bushes, hens and chicks, Creeping Jenny, and some thyme.
It was cold. My gloves soaked through and my hands froze. But I was happy. I could see the stone wall that was to come. I could envision the way Jenny would start to Creep down the stone garden stairs, the way the rosemary would thrive in the sun. That sun-bleached day was long over the horizon but I believed it would come, and I knew there was bitter winter work to be done today, right now.
Creativity requires enormous effort and we can give it when we have hope. You could call it ‘vision,’ the ability to see what is not yet a reality, but that word misses the pain and darkness that often attend any creative work over the long haul. What we need is hope, the capacity to know the end from the beginning, to see already in the snow the fragrant, sun-bleached rosemary perfuming its new home.
Such knowledge is ultimately reserved for God—“I make known the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10)—but it can be ours in flashes. It is what I saw today. But I have also had many days when I could not make out the end at all. The narrative that arches between here and there had been erased. Then hope leans on trust, and the work goes on, usually because quitting isn’t an option. And the Creeping Jenny gets moved anyway and the sun rises and sets and one day it yellows into life and crawls down a stone step when no one is looking.
That happens again and again, in spite of our best or worst, and it is what teaches us to hope.