Tuesday, March 29, 2011

life and death and gardening

When I think of life and death I sometimes imagine opposites, or different poles on a spectrum. How different are life and death. Of life, we are experts and of death we know nothing. But that isn't true at all. In fact, for me the more I encounter death in its many forms, the more I appreciate life, all life.
So it is with great humility that I look closely at my own garden, not only for what I can learn about sustainable agriculture, but also for the lessons in life, and the sustainability of Family.
All winter I saw the brown, worn leaves of the Helebors in my garden. I would walk past and think, "Should I cut them off?" "How far down should I cut?" "Perhaps I should just wait until Spring and leave them in place." Days and months pass and snow covers the dead leaves. Yet, knowing as I do that the Helebors will be among the first flowers to bloom,I decide to wait.
I've been through the cycle, I know how and when to anticipate the new growth, yet I chose not to cut back the leaves over the winter.
I recently looked at the place along pathway from our front door that I walk each day and saw the Helebor in bloom, right in with the dry, brown leaves. It was a moment, cherished. Seeing literally within the old leaves the new beautiful blooms. Camera. Pencils. Paints. Pause to appreciate.
Tomorrow I will visit my grand daughter's kindergarten to introduce them to "healthy gardens."
I will be bringing seedlings of lettuces and herbs and seeds to grow squash and cucumbers for planting after we build a raised bed. I will ask them what they know about how vegetables and flowers grow.
I will ask my grand daughter to tell them how we planted the peas in the garden last week. I will ask them if they know where, and how we get the seeds. Then I will review with them what they learned about the third day of Creation- the Biblical phrase, "Let the earth sprout forth sprouting plants yielding seeds." The Ramban says that the phrase 'let the earth' is used because it means that God created the earth with the potential to grow and nourish the seeds. That is a good lesson for why we need to pay attention to the soil we use. We will discuss composting on another day. It is not to hard to stay focused on all the actual gardening tasks.

Yet, for me, it is my heart that learns of life and death. It is knowing that my grand daughter is named for my own mother, z"l that brings the tears that water that garden within me that I can only call my life force, my neshama. Not a day has gone by in over twenty years that I have not felt my mother's love, presence and guidance. While my tears are personal, my passion is for nurturing all of G-d's children, and working daily to seed His garden with love, Emunah (belief), and Betachon (trust).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Irish Green and Gardening

Strong forces are bombarding the mind and the material, natural world. As I write this, I am astounded by the force of the Earth Quake in Japan and the resultant tsunami washing up on the West Coast. Energy which shifts the earth and challenges us to get our minds around the magnitude of this event just as we watch the waters and waves hit and spread to encircle the islands from all sides.
I am living happily in the month of Adar, but I am viscerally and spiritually connected to the natural world and all of humanity. Never privy to G-d's ultimate plan, I continue to strengthen my faith and join forces with the best of human responses to this devastation.
Ah, the challenge to stay positive and focus on what is in front of me! And so I say, Thank G-d for March 17 and the Irish and the secular calendars which mark this day. While I will may not be wearing green, I will be at my 'green-est' as I get out into the garden and down on my knees to start planting!
March 17 in my area of North America, is the time to plant peas, mustards and some lettuces.
Therefore, today serves as a reminder that if you have not already purchased your seeds- do it ASAP. Of course, you could buy them locally as well.
Planting peas and lettuces with children is a very engaging. Even planting the peas for them or virtually should be considered. We like to start our grandchildren out at about 18 months. If a child can stand, I consider them to be my partners in the planting process. Do not confuse 'planting with children' with 'supervising' children. I consider the "planting of the peas" a great example of the social construction of knowledge and experience. We do it together. We discuss it while it is happening. the peas, unlike lettuce seeds are large (they are the size of a pea!) We take turns, either I poke my finger in the ground, and the child drops in the pea, or the child pokes and I drop in the pea. Older children in the neighborhood are able to do both processes. Planting with children is a shared experience. I always use a personal pronoun when I refer to our gardens. If a child lives far from us, I might say, "I planted peas today in your garden" After the children plant, I continually give them updates on 'their' peas even on the phone. Of course the most fun is picking the pods when they are ready. And what to do with grandchildren far away? Well, when the pods are ready to be picked, they don't wait for the next holiday visit. So, last year, I pulled the entire root system up, untied the trellised peas and stuff the whole thing in a bag and
I took Amtrak up hte east coast so the children could 'experience' pulling the pods off of the stalks and take the peas out of the pods themselves. Perfect for little hands and great hearts of all ages.
So, thank you to the Irish who keep me focuses on just the right time to turn green and get into my garden.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Green Bubbie: Be Happy It's Adar

The Green Bubbie: Be Happy It's Adar: "The Talmud states, 'When Adar enters, simcha (joy) increases.' This year is a leap year in the Jewish Calendar, and therefore an additional..."

Be Happy It's Adar

The Talmud states, "When Adar enters, simcha (joy) increases." This year is a leap year in the Jewish Calendar, and therefore an additional month is added to the calendar. That additional month is always the month of Adar.
This year I spent the first month of Adar contemplating what it might mean for a month "To enter"
This is just the kind of question that revs up my imagination. How can time enter? What is it entering? How is this increased simcha experienced or perceived? Like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, is the increased 'simcha' in the universe really increasing, or does it only increase if more people are aware of the 'time' change?
Just like living with the reality of 'Shabbos' as a time frame with behavior parameters, I have been consciously thinking of how I can experience increased 'simcha' in Adar .
It's a choice. Spiritual development is not a treadmill with an ever increasing incline. More effort, more gain, more sweat, more pain.What a delight to learn that there is a spiritual path that trains us for increased simcha- it takes just as much effort but the rewards are tangible.
I think it is Reb Nachman who says, "Mitzvah gedolia l'hiot b'simcha" (It is a great mitzvah to be
'b'simcha' to be happy)
Life teaches us that being happy can be one of the hardest of the mitzvot. As I think about 'simcha' I am grateful for all that I have, that I am, that I share. In essence, I think true 'simcha' is about life, and our gratitude for every moment. Our challenge is to live this way and teach our children that true simcha is not about what we 'have' it is about the joy of life, and how we live, and what we can become when we strive to live life as the best person we can be andwhen we live in peace with each other.
Be Happy, It's Adar! (tell everyone you know)