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Earth Etude for Elul 6: Ode to a Woodchuck

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

Woodchuck—

you who make your home in my yard,

I see you wandering,

and eating,

always eating—

eating the grass (which is fine),

or the flowers I so carefully planted,

or the vegetable plants I’d thought would be safe—

this year you seem to especially enjoy zucchini,

having devoured their leaves not just once,

or twice,

or thrice,

but already four times,

and it’s only July.

I remember in the past when I hated you—

or perhaps it was your grandmother,

or great-grandmother,

or great-great-grandmother—

when I wanted you removed from my yard,

and I tried to deter you,

to get rid of you.

In vain.

But this no longer works for me.

Instead of you,

the hatred has passed,

disappeared, vanished.

I no longer have the strength to fight.

I’ve come to understand that you, too,

are one of G!d’s creatures,

made in the Divine image,

that you were, in essence,

here before me.

Not you specifically, of course,

but your ancestors.

They were munching this patch of land

long before my ancestors invaded your territory.

It’s chutzpadik for me to believe you don’t belong.

What right have I to think I’m more important

than you?

I admit it would be dissembling on my part

not to acknowledge the despair and sadness

that overcome me

when my zucchini plants

are suddenly bereft of leaves,

or when the plants I love

don’t burst forth with color

because of your constant munching.

I honor my grief,

holding it gently to my heart,

grateful that i no longer ooze with hatred

and that my desire to destroy is gone,

knowing that I am blessed,

but also knowing that i have much work to do

to extend this to so many others.

Rabbi Katy Allen is the founder and rabbi of Ma’yan Tikvah – A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long and has a growing children’s outdoor learning program, Y’ladim BaTeva. She is the founder of the Jewish Climate Action Network-MA, a board certified chaplain, and a former hospital and hospice chaplain. She received her ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in  Yonkers, NY, in 2005, and lives in Wayland, MA, with her spouse, Gabi Mezger, who leads the.singing at Ma’yan Tikvah.

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Rabbi Katy Z. Allen is the founder and leader of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, a congregation without walls that meets outdoors all year long. She is the co-convener and President pro-tem of the Boston-area Jewish Climate Action Network, and the founder of the One Earth Collaborative, a program of Open Spirit in Framingham, MA.
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