A Parable of a Brush Pile and a Compost Heap

By Eva Graves Price

As a garden grows older, its owner soon finds the need of space for a brush pile.  Plants and trees need pruning, and diseased and dead parts must be burned.  What a blessing is fire to cleanse what is foul.  A vast deal depends on the sanitation of our lovely gardens.  The good gardener spies out the dangerous enemies, and sees that they are consumed by fire in the brush pile.  But by no means should all refuse be destroyed.

Years ago, I was walking in the glorious garden of a friend.  I turned to its creator and asked, “How do you do it?  I could never make things grow like that.”  Then he led me to a corner, sheltered by a vine-covered lattice, and showed me a great pile of what looked like just dirt.  Here is the secret, he said, a compost heap.  Into this pile go the faded flowers, leaves, grass clippings, garbage, everything that has lived its life and withered.  Here this humus decomposes, is mixed with mother earth and manure, and in due time goes to nourish what you see out there.  But it takes time and some care before it is ready to serve again in the cycle of growth and decay.

As time went by, and I slowly developed my own garden, I pondered the brush pile and the compost heap in relation to our lives.  This was made vivid for me by a dear, old man who came frequently to our home to visit.  He was always bewailing the fact that thoughts of the unhappy and disagreeable events in his life went round and round in his mind, making his many wakeful hours wretched.  Then I saw that we all need a brush pile in our lives, where we can burn the larvae and worms of small hates and jealousies, the menacing scales and borers of suspicion, antipathies and misunderstandings.  It takes vigilance to watch these little bugs, and high resolve to say to these evil tendencies, “Get thee behind me, to the brush pile.  I have only the beautiful growth of friendships and love in my garden.”

We must know, too, what properly goes to the brush pile, and what into the precious compost heap.  I am getting old, and now I realize what goes to make the clean, rich earth of a well tended life compost heap.  The inevitable disappointments, brave attempts that failed, the fragrant friendships, so flowery and sweet, that had to end, illness so thorny to bear, but full of valid experiences, all of these go into the compost heap of our living, sometimes consciously, more often unconsciously.  Then, if there is a good gardener who senses the deeper meanings, and has the courage and patience to accept and interpret them, they come out in time, a long time, the richest, sweetest compost that makes our spirits grow like flowers, full of vigor, color and fragrance.

So, wise is the man who gardens both his acre and his life with a brush pile, kept burning by the refining fire of love, and a compost heap well mixed with a calm philosophy.  Then, in a long maturity he can revel in a deep happiness.

copyright 2016 by Martha Price

ABOUT THIS PARABLE – In sorting through a large trunk filled with old family papers, Martha Price came across this lovely essay by her grandmother, Eva Bronson Graves Price who was born in 1875 and died in 1947. This parable is only the first, I hope, in a series about gathered wisdom. The newest and most advanced information is not all we need to know now.

Who do you know, what have you learned from an earlier generation that might be useful now?

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