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November 4, 2003

I had just spilled half a bag of bone meal on the front seat of the car. It had remained safely vertical on the ride to my daughter's house, where I had gone to put in a few dozen daffodils and then toppled over when I came up my own driveway. Most accidents happen close to home.

"I just spilled bone meal on the front seat," I announced to Q when I came in the house. "I'm sorry. I'll clean it up in the morning." But not right then. I was on the run to Pennsylvania.

But in the morning I discovered that my cool little vacuum cleaner that you charge up like a cell phone hadn't been charged up like a cell phone. I put its nose into a pile of bone meal and pulled the trigger. Nothing. It sat there like a statue of a vacuum cleaner.

The next day I removed it from its charger and went out to the car. But I guess the outlet into which I had plugged it was dead. This is an old house, and you never know.

So the next day I used the same outlet in the bathroom we use for the sonic toothbrush and the thing charged up. It chowed down happily on the bone meal.

"I'll need to vacuum the car with the regular vacuum cleaner," Q said. "There's still some bone meal. And a little manure spilled in the trunk." I had visited the horse farm on my way back from Pennsylvania and gotten three glorious bags. "That little one doesn't pick up the heavy stuff."

Okay. But I'm going to race him and get out there first. I don't want him to vacuum up bone meal and manure that I spilled. People should handle their own, stuff.

The daffodils will be gorgeous -- little stands of them here and there, deep gold and pale yellow, so pale it is almost white. Tiny ones and large trumpet ones. And the tulips will be fine, too, drifts of different colors, one shade leading into another. The bone meal undergirds it all. The manure tops it off. Gorgeous.

But it's a mess getting there. Spilled bone meal. Manure in the trunk. Who's going to clean this up?

Horses smell wonderful. Horse manure smells wonderful. It smells of grass and grain and straw, of the chemical breaking down of everything. It is rich and alive, a dark smell, dark and warm. I know that some people don't like it. But I think maybe that's because they haven't spent much time around a farm. You get used to it. You grow into it. You understand its fecundity and admire it. If someone were to tell me that the eMos are a load of horse manure, I'd be grateful for the praise. I can't think of a greater compliment than to be compared with horse manure.

Naturally, all this talk of bone meal and horse manure reminds me of the Church. Look at how hard it can be to cooperate with God in the making of something beautiful. Look what a mess it can make. Look at how death enters into the process of life again, nourishing the next generation. And at how something many think unclean can feed a field of flowers.
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