Miracles Spring from Rocky Soil

Miracles spring from rocky soil

When I was a student at Utah State University, a winsome young woman named Mary asked me to explain the lyrics of a Neil Diamond song to her. Back then I fancied myself a brooding poet – and I fancied Mary – so I gave it a shot. The song was “Stones.” It begins:
Stones would play inside her head
And where she slept
They made her bed.
It ends:
Every prayer ever prayed
For just two wild flowers that grow
On stones.
I had no clue what it meant, so I made something up ? something that seemed to drip with deep thoughts.
Years later, of course, I realized the song is actually about miracles. It’s about how life can make people feel hard and cold and numb – like stones – but even then, something warm, bright and living can still bloom in that life – like wildflowers on rocky soil.
I thought of Mary and that melody again last week as two friends and I drove home through Utah’s western desert after a golf outing. Out of nowhere, sculptor Karl Momen’s roadside tree appeared beside I-80. I’ve always liked the thing, and I said as much. One of my friends played devil’s advocate. He said it defaced the natural landscape, that it was out of place, that it was one man’s ego stamped on nature – like those names kids spell out with rocks on the salt flats.
But there is, I feel, a big difference. Names spelled in stones in the desert are self-important. But Momen was after bigger game. He was sharing an insight about life. He was showing motorists how something colorful and lovely could emerge from that barren waste. He called his sculpture “Metaphor.”
And that’s what it is.
His tree is a metaphor for what sits at the heart of every religion and – I think – most human connections.
Like Neil Diamond’s song, Momen’s sculpture says that life can be cold, hard and numb, but something warm and human can still come out of that life. That’s the miracle.
And it is the same message found on page after page of the world’s sacred texts.
It is what is being taught when Moses smacks a rock with a rod and fresh water gushes out, when manna and quail appear in the desert and bread and fishes materialize for the 5,000.
It is what’s at the heart of the stories about raising the dead, healing lepers and even the reports of resurrection itself.
It’s the “back story” of the Mormon pioneers making the Great Basin blossom as a rose and of missionaries – of every stripe – taking hope and nourishment into the dry, parched lives of the destitute.
The testimonies all have the same ring to them.
Yesterday my life was brittle and dry. Today my life is rich and moist. Let me share it with you.
In the end – winsome Mary – that’s what I meant to say years ago when you asked me about the song “Stones.” Even the sourest life can find sweetness.
I didn’t know that then. Young, brooding self-important poets don’t often realize that.
Sometimes, it takes weary old news hacks who’ve been knocked around the block a few times to understand it.

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