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Earth Etude for Elul 14 –Inner and Outer Climate Change

by Rabbi Robin Damsky

A local toad finds a home in the pot of a rooting African violet (yes, the leaf got displaced).

~It’s been a year of change. Not just a move, but a move to a new climate zone and a very new culture. I moved from outside Chicago to Durham, NC, the South. The trees here are glorious – pines everywhere, wisteria in April blooming in the wild, crepe myrtle in vivid fuchsia and pale pastels just now. It’s hot. Average days are in the 90s and one can almost swim in the humidity. A long growing season brought daffodils in February, while I just set my second planting of pole beans. I’ve been graced by many a critter – my welcome basket was in the form of a 10-inch turtle on my front steps. I see many toads, frogs and praying mantises. The hawk that sits in my front tree visits regularly; as do so many species of birds that I hear and see living within the forest in my backyard. In a Dorothy moment, I would say to Toto: “We are definitely not in Kansas (Chicago) anymore.”

Being in this location with so much nature around me is a balm down deep. Yet I have already lived through two hurricanes. Then a snowstorm that brought more inches in one day than the annual average. The heat is often unbearable. Every day I see more forest being cleared for new townhomes. We live within climate change.

So what to do? Well, I plant. Everywhere I can I plant food and flower, vegetable, herb, fruit and tree. I compost, building back some of which I take away. I teach this to expand the vision, as well as the healing. But I also worry. I meet many 20s and 30s individuals who are reconfiguring their goals expecting our Earth to die off. Or at least to go through a major shift. I am reminded of the movie, “The Day After Tomorrow,” with most of the northern hemisphere winding up covered in ice.

Teshuvah is internal and external. Where inside are we feeling laid waste? Where are our inner tornadoes and hurricanes? Where might we be cutting ourselves off from our own resources? What work do we need to do to replenish the inner landscape? As we explore the inner, so too we look out. Is there an individual act of repair for us to take on? Is it time to join a communal program? Are we to put on our activism boots and start a project, or advance one that speaks to us? How do we pass the word to others? In the words of Hillel, the time is now.

It may seem that the inner answers are easier to address than those pertaining to the Earth outside of us. But perhaps they are mere reflections of one another. As we heal within, so too without. The reverse is true as well. May our work this Elul season bless us with these healings in abundance. May we simultaneously hold hands with others around the globe, reminding ourselves that we are one Earth family.

© Copyright “Inner and Outer Climate Change” by Robin Damsky

Rabbi Robin Damsky is the founder of In the Gardens, (http://inthegardens.org) a nonprofit bringing edible organic garden design and meditation practice to people in food insecure communities and beyond. She is the rabbi of Temple Israel in Miller Beach, IN, boasting a 41-plot community garden. Robin offers scholar-in-residence opportunities combining garden design, contemplative practice and eco social justice. She is the upcoming co-chair of Hazon’s Rabbinical Council. Kenissa has identified her as an innovator redefining Jewish life. Robin is a graduate of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s Clergy Leadership Program and their Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training. She was ordained by the Ziegler School at AJU and earned her Masters in Jewish education at JTS. She has a BFA in dance from Ohio University and has been a medical massage therapist since 1977. Robin lives in Durham, NC. She is the very proud mother of Sarah.

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