Earth Etude for Elul 12

Growth and Re-Growth

by Rabbi Shahar Colt

~I used to work in a building next to what appeared to be an abandoned parking lot. Mostly it was a sheet of broken up concrete. The lines separating parking spaces were barely visible, and a huge tree stood somewhere near the center. Over the course of the spring and summer, weeds would grow, pushing through the spaces between the concrete, breaking it further with the slow persistence of plants. By late summer, the goldenrod was blooming and I sneezed as I biked by. From the street, the space was so full of weeds you couldn’t see the concrete anymore, the greenery had fully overtaken the lot, a mix of indigenous and invasive species vying for dirt and sunlight, creating the illusion of a meadow.

At some point each year, someone came and mowed down the weeds, revealing the parking lot all over again. It was always disappointing, all that life cut down. I missed the greenery.

But I was always more struck by the re-growth. Year after year, the plants took over the parking lot. I marveled at the capacity of all those plants to grow around pavement, despite it. My uncle’s words would repeat in my head, “A weed is only a plant that YOU don’t like.” Perhaps the plants growing in the parking lot were weeds to the lot’s owner, perhaps even the city had rules to prevent pests from moving in…but collectively they made something beautiful, a natural environment softening the landscape of an otherwise urban area. 

Each year I found comfort in the transformation from parking lot to “meadow” and back to parking lot.  Humans may try to cover over the rich earth, we might try to cut down the plants, but the life force of the natural world pushes through. On a larger scale, while our own behaviors threaten the livability of earth for humans, the life force present in the diversity of plants and creatures will continue to push evolution in a changing environment. Natural beauty prevails.  May that same life force continue to push me along the path of my own growth, through my own choices and mis-steps, as long as I live, and may it be a source of growth and re-growth for you, too. 

Rabbi Shahar Colt serves as the executive director for the Community Hevra Kaddisha of Greater Boston, and spiritual leader for Congregation Ahavas Achim in Westfield, MA. She lives in Watertown, MA with her spouse and children.

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