High Country Books

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Sagebrush Seed
Meditations from the High Country
by Don Ian Smith
ISBN: 0932773087
111 pages, trade paper
Sagebrush is not a spectacular plant, like a great redwood tree or a flowering dogwood. But it is a wonderful part of creation--it is living evidence that God never gives up. The thirsty deer and the flowing stream, the strutting meadowlark, the tenaciously alert sheep dogs, the perilously poisonous cow parsnips and water hemlock, and the tiny dry sagebrush seed--all are filled with great parables for our times.
Planting seeds, observing birds of the air and flowers of the fields, and other illustrations like those used by Jesus are the basis for these meditations.
The seed lies in the earth--dry, dormant, apparently dead but waiting for a special springtime, a certain season when there will be more than average moisture and conditions will be just right. Then, even if it has been dormant for many years, it will come to life, produce a new and lovely plant, just as if it were newly created and had never had to wait through all the dry and disappointing years.

"Quite a few years ago we were involved in building a new church and parsonage in the town of Salmon, Idaho. The old church and parsonage had been built down in the old part of town along the river bottom. The Salmon River flows right through the town and the city park is an island in the river. When we built the new church and parsonage we built in a section of town known locally as The Bar.
"Much of The Bar is formed of gravel and larger rocks, and, in the area where we built, it provides an excellent condition for the foundations of buildings--no problem with mud or earth slides. There is no danger of a building sinking. The rock and gravel is very firm, but also porous, and there is not enough topsoil to make a good lawn and landscape. So when we built our parsonage, we leveled the rocks and covered them with earth moved in from somewhere else. Because the rocks make such a porous base, it is almost impossible to keep enough water on the ground to grow a good lawn unless you first cover the rocks with a heavy soil like clay that will keep the water from your lawn sprinkler from sinking right down into the ground to river level. We brought in some very heavy clay from an excavation being made for a building down in the river bottom. We covered the rocks with the clay, but found that the clay was not very good for making a seedbed. We then went out into the sagebrush covered foothills not far from town to get some high-quality topsoil--enough to cover the clay to a depth of two or three inches. With this we were able to make an excellent seedbed; we seeded our lawn and with great anticipation turned on the sprinklers. We were not disappointed. We got a fine stand of grass and in a short time we had a good lawn. But we also got something we had not expected--a most wonderful crop of beautiful little sagebrush plants. They were no problem to the lawn. One mowing when they were about two inches high would finish them off and leave the grass in good shape to crowd them out. But they were so pretty, and there were so many of them, that before mowing them we did pot a large number and sold quite a few of them to tourists as a way of raising a little more money for our church building program and as a way of advertising a mission project we had under way at the Salmon Church.
"Many times in the years since we grew that fine crop of tiny, beautiful sagebrush plants, quite by accident, I have thought of them and realized how symbolic they are of the joy, life, hope and goodness that can grow in any human life, but which often lie dormant, waiting for the right conditions to cause them to sprout and grow and reach up for the sun."
"Each night at bedtime my wife writes in her diary. She is a recorder of events and a writer of chronicles, which I am not. [One] evening, as she wrote in her little book I asked what she was writing. She replied with great earnestness, 'I am noting the fact that today we picked the apricots.' Well, I thought, what is so great about the day on which we picked the apricots that one should record it for posterity? Undoubtedly, about this same time next year we will pick them again, and with good fortune, we will be doing it every summer at about this time. I made a comment to this effect and she simply went on writing and pointed out that it will be good to see if they do get ripe at the same time next summer and to know when to expect them to be ready. Of course, one does not argue with that sort of wisdom, though I continued to mull it over for awhile. The more I thought about it the more I realized she was exactly right. The day on which you pick the apricots is a great day and worthy of recording in the book of life. The fact that it will happen with a certain degree of regularity does not detract from its importance, but rather adds to the wonder of the event.
"One of the greatest causes of dicontent and boredom in life is the tendency we have of believing that if something happens with regularity, it ceases to be wonderful, when quite the opposite is true. When spring comes, I can check with Betty's diary and see if the season is a bit late, but wouldn't it be terrible if it didn't come at all? Because it is so dependable, I sometimes forget to thank and praise God for the wonder of it. One of these days, I presume Betty will note in her little book that the new grass, when it came in the meadows this year, was green. And so it was. But that is worth noting. What if it were black or white? It really is a wonderful thing that the grass turned out to be green again this year. It reminds us of the wonder of a God who could have made the world in black and white, but because he loves beauty and chooses to make things wonderful, he has made the world in technicolor. Our ripe tomatoes will continue to be red; yellow apples will be yellow; the autumn leaves will be all sorts of colors."
"Don Ian Smith has the remarkable ability to combine his love of nature and love of God in unforgettable books. After reading the first chapter on 'Sagebrush Seed' it will be impossible not to appreciate those thousands of sagebrush bushes that cover our desert land.....The author has kept the quality of his books consistent and readable."


(A Review of Western Books compiled by THE BOOK SHOP, Boise, ID)


"Now and then a book falls into my hands that makes me want to run out into the street so that I may read excerpts to every passerby.... This is one of those rare books which comes along now and then and is full of pure delight and imaginative insights."

----------Carl M. Davidson, DENVER POST


"Don Ian Smith, rancher, pastor and writer, sees great parables for our times in the strutting meadowlark, the flowing stream, the poisonous cow parsnips, the tiny sagebrush seed--in all the Idaho rangeland around him."



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