On this first full day of autumn, with the changing of the seasons, I think alot of us gardeners are shifting our thoughts to what needs to be done in the garden, as well as taking some extra moments to pause and gaze at all of the blazing glory this season brings: leaves transforming themselves into majestic colors, sunflower heads turning limp and their seeds ready for plucking, juicy tomatoes dripping from vines in vibrant colors and pumpkins ripening themselves in preparation for Halloween, pumpkin muffins and pie. It is a season of harvest, nostalgia and of giving thanks.
In speaking with my father this past Saturday morning, he reminded me that Sukkot, a Jewish holiday, begins in a few weeks. And I am quite sure that it was by no accident that on that same day, the first day of class of my 2nd year of studying at the seminary that I attend in New York, www.onespiritinterfaith.org, (which is a phenomenal seminary for all who are spiritually inclined) that the focus was on the importance of ritual in giving meaning and sustenance to our lives.
For Jews throughout the world, we build sukkahs, a thatched open air structure strewned with fruits and anything else we wish in order to celebrate this festive holiday. Sukkot dates back to ancient times and was an agricultural festival, rejoicing in and giving thanks for the bounty of the harvest. After I got off the phone, I was flooded with memories of when my children were young and how each year we decorated the sukkah, which was actually an arbor on the side of my house normally festooned with wisteria. We used to move our patio table from the backyard to under the sukkah where we would enjoy evening meals. But the most fun of all was on the first night of Sukkot, when all of the neighborhood children, Jewish or not, congregated under this primitive structure to say a prayer of thanks. It was a magical ritual, one that I hope my children, who are now adults, have etched in their memories.
As gardeners, we all come from a variety of religious, ethnic, or spiritual backgrounds. Whether we are aware of it or not, all of us practice rituals, some of which, I would guess, are associated with the change in seasons. I don’t know about you, but each time I am weeding or digging in my garden in the fall, I take the time to crumble the earth in my hands. And I gaze more frequently at the butterflies, birds and animals flitting and scurrying about, knowing that within the next few months, they will either have flown away, died or gone into hiberation. And even though the days are shorter, I try to stay out in the garden just a wee bit longer, feeling like I need to savor each moment, so precious and dear to me.
Our ancestors, for thousands and thousands of years, survived through their connection to the earth, practicing a plethora of rituals. Quite to the contrary, in today’s world, where so much of humankind living in industrialized, capitalistic societies, are disconnected from nature, using any spare time they have (which for many is little) surrounded by gadgets and wanting to be entertained.
So, I am asking each of you to think about the fall gardening or nature rituals that you participate in or have created for yourself (and family or friends), from preparation for Halloween to collecting leaves or anything else your heart desires, and to share these rituals with all of us.
Also, for those of you who are interested in rituals, the person who taught our class at seminary this past weekend, Barbara Biziou, is an expert in the field. You can check out her website at: www.joyofritual.com