As Spring settles in and the new growing season is well on its way in the Hudson Valley, we at Eden Village Camp and the Jewish Farm School have begun cultivating the fields and planting seeds in the thawed soil and in the eager minds that have joined us for our Spring programs.
Arriving onsite as a farm apprentice just a few weeks ago, I was beyond excited to get my hands dirty again growing the food that will feed us this season, and helping create programs to energize and educate people of all ages through the Spring, Summer and Fall.
It was inspiring noticing which perennials survived the winter, the daffodils piercing the brown forest with color, and the wild garlic chives that for so many signify the first life of Spring. (For this reason, some folks use chives as karpas, the vegetable found on the seder plate.)
In our first Homeschooling session of the season, we welcomed Pesach with a group of learners and enacted some of the story of Pesach! Together we journeyed into the wilderness (the woods surrounding our camp) en route to the Holy Land (the farm). We paused at times to notice creatures and colors we otherwise might have missed if not eager to spot them: luminous lichen (“i’ma lichen it!), new shoots, bird feathers. We listened to sounds we would miss if we were not silent: flapping wings of geese, the rustling of squirrels searching for food, creaking branches of the bare trees. We finally made it through this land of subtle beauties and arrived on the abundant, fertile farm, complete with a Hebrew Calendar Garden, in which there is a special plot of land to represent each month of the Hebrew calendar. In Nissan, the month that contains Pesach, we grow barley – because during this time of Nissan, the first harvest of barley took place. With our homeschoolers group, we planted parsley into the Nissan bed as well to evoke one of the items on the seder plate.
There is nothing like seeing the wonder in a learner’s eyes when experiencing the jewels of the natural world anew or really for the first time. There is nothing like expanding my own relationship with the land and her cycles. I feel so grateful to be part of this work to reconnect people to sustainable methods of growing food and living in harmony with the environment, through a lens that enhances Jewish values and re-explores Jewish traditions.
We drink four cups of wine at our seder and I think it is beautiful to remember that we also celebrate four seasons, work with four cardinal directions, and honor four elements. It is easy to connect the simcha of the seder with the natural world around us that calls to us to play with her.