Earth Etude for Elul 9 – Weeds and Debris
by Maxine Lyons I started to think about teshuvah and Rosh Hashana early this summer while cleaning out my flowerbeds of weeds and debris. I noticed the different roots in my garden – fibrous roots spread laterally underground and re-appear in other places, taproots that remain steadfast in one place and grow downward deep into the earth. I was musing about how some people are like taproots- making a bold, firm stance whereas others are like the plants with fibrous roots, appearing and reappearing, showing their influences by reaching out in a variety of places and spaces. Weeding is an ongoing effort especially those that proliferate in shaded areas with strong and tenacious roots. If you do not remove the whole root bulb, they will grow strong again and threaten to become invasive. So are our bad habits, those nagging and sometimes distracting, often unproductive habits that continue to invade our thoughts and sabotage new behavior if we do not attend to them. The most effective way for me to make changes in my daily life is to “root out” the reason for the continued habit and replace it more consciously with a more life-enriching choice. It is a recurring challenge to change these habits but when I succeed in small ways to trade the old ones with more healthful ones I feel as if I am doing teshuvah. I resonate fully with Stanley Kunitz in the question he asks in his inspiring book, The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden—“Why is the act of cultivating so compelling? The garden has been a great teacher in everything I cherish. And it leads to a meditation on the connection between the self and the rest of the natural universe.” I feel that planting and growing plants and vegetables connect me deeply to the earth and its preservation. This year we are hearing a compelling environmental message stated clearly by the Pope in his encyclical. He clearly emphasizes the relationship between religion and the environment, calling for everyone to take the crisis in climate change seriously through joint actions, to create new paradigms and new solutions to environmental disregard and harm. Additionally, The Shalom Center’s rallying cry that gained 380 rabbis’ signatures for the Rabbinic Letter On the Climate Crisis recognizes that justice and caring for the earth are interwoven, taught by our ancient texts as well as joining the forces of justice and healing the earth being taught in our experiences today (calling for a new sense of “eco-social justice –tikkun tevel, “the healing of all the earths’ inhabitants).” This growing consciousness of the interconnectedness of all life forms compels us to act on behalf of the environment. Every small action we each take has a ripple effect on the whole of life, and we have to choose wisely in what we do that impacts the well being of the earth, and helps sustain us and everything around us. In this season of dedication to reflection and change, as we practice our teshuvah, may we continue to grow within ourselves as we tend our flower and vegetable gardens in the spirit of love and positive actions in the world.
Maxine Lyons is a Newton, MA, resident and joyful gardener, interfaith activist/board member with Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries (CMM), and participant in spiritual accompaniment programs.