Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky…So God created mankind in his own image.” Genesis 1:26-27
The puppies have ruined our lives. Two male beagles, brothers from the same litter and brought to our home in late January, have destroyed the peace and incited mischief with each stolen shoe. We named them Hawkeye and Trapper after the beloved and equally prankish characters featured in the 70s drama M*A*S*H*. Their names have proved fitting as we watch them with the vigilant eyes of a paternal Colonel Potter.
It’s my turn to keep watch today, sitting on the front porch steps and laughing as they chase each other in concentric circles around the yard, hiding from each other behind the big boulder and leaping over bushes in yet another surprise attack. Their sleek bodies are low to the ground as they speed over a yard perpetually dotted with clover. Their picturesque agility is breathtaking, right up until their juvenile legs get tangled and they go tumbling head over tail, coming to rest with tongues out and eyes bright. They are joy, and they are exhausting.
I interviewed for a new position at work last week. More responsibility, more opportunity to harm or to help the people in my care. I feel very small before the great ocean of this task. And yet, in this well-timed week of vacation, in the sylvan hideaway of my parents home, I can feel the spirit over the water, hovering in the darkness.
Just this morning I was slicing a nectarine to eat with breakfast. It’s fire-red skin puckered and wrinkled under my fingers, just starting to separate from the flesh, at the very precipice of over-ripeness. I pressed my nose to the barely-fuzzy skin and breathed in the miracle of ripe summerfruit. In joy and wonder I carried the fruit to each member of my family and begged them to smell, to revel, and when the slices were cut, to taste. We miss so much in our haste…
Dallas Willard says in his book The Divine Conspiracy that when we think of God, we should think first of him as being full of joy. He says: “All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and depth and richness.” The joy and laughter that rises in me when the puppies chase each other around the barn is a direct result of having been created in the image of God. I was created to love creation, and to see that it is good.
I needed that reminder on my second day at home as I sat in the grass under one of the apple trees by the barn. The sun was high and hot, the barn cats curled lazily on a half-eaten bale of hay, and the puppies were gnawing on opposite ends of the same stick. The farm was at peace—even the horses were contentedly grazing, eyes half closed as they mindlessly stomped at flies. And yet, even there, in that peaceful place, my brow furrowed with unrest.
Searching for grounding, I settled in to watching a spider, and then a sparrow, and then a plump little bumble bee. I felt the grass pressing into the softness of my legs and I felt the damp heat rising from the dirt at the coaxing of an almost-July sun. And in that moment, I felt at peace with my responsibility as a caretaker, and also with being, myself, created. Like the bee, or the puppy, or the clover, I felt at peace with being a small part of a big farm.
In the interview I was asked what has changed most about my leadership in the last three years. I cocked my head and considered the question before answering easily: “I have learned that I don’t have to do it all alone.” I was referring mostly to my increasing capacity to partner with others and to trust my team, but also, I am learning that my anxiety in leadership and living comes mostly when I try to garden by myself. In trying to wrestle with creation, I forget that I too, am created. We should till our corners with diligence, yes, but we’ll miss the joy and wonder if we think we work alone.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Ansley Kelly (‘16) is a Department Manager at Wegmans in Buffalo, New York. She is passionate about her work as a leader and often describes her job as “creating environments for talented people to be successful.” In the summer you can find her training as the bowperson on a competitive sailing team, and in the winter she volunteers as a member of the National Ski Patrol. After both of those activities you can find her sipping bourbon (neat, of course) and working on puzzles.