Celebrating Seasonal Rituals In The Garden

– Posted in: Garden Musings

 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

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at www.fransorin.com.

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Fran Sorin
8 comments… add one

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Robin Wedewer September 23, 2008, 2:15 pm

This is a lovely reflection on slowing down and, well, thinking. I find myself wandering outside more frequently just to walk around and look at nature. I don’t necessarily have to do anything, just look. The air is cool. The mosquitoes are…where are the mosquitoes? Anyway, it’s a walking meditation to go outside in the fall.

Robin Wedewer
Ntl. Gardening Examiner

I love the phrase ‘walking meditation’. It really is fitting for just walking and taking in the beauty of this glorious season. Thanks for your thoughts. Fran

Lisa at Greenbow September 23, 2008, 3:55 pm

Beautiful post. I do think that this time of year as the days get shorter we do take a little more time to reflect on our blessings that a bountiful harvest personifies.

Agreed. And if we haven’t already, Thanksgiving is a great reminder. Fran

Gail September 23, 2008, 4:13 pm


What a beautiful post. Thank you for asking. I lie down and look at the bluest of October skies through the changing leaves and slowly feel my self become centered. The longer I lay there the more aware I become of my senses…the smells, the sights, the sounds, tastes and the feel of the ground. It is a time when I am most in touch with the little child within me and my deep connection to the earth and nature. It is comforting and uplifting.


Your ritual is simple and elegant. You reminded me of when I was a child and we lay outside at night, on top of piles of raked leaves, just watching the stars and feeling the leaves underneath us. Thanks for sharing.

Fern September 23, 2008, 7:50 pm

One of the things I really enjoy about being Jewish is the connection to nature and the seasonal cycle. I love the passage in Kohelet/Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

“Everything has an appointed season, and there is a time for every matter under the heaven. A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot that which is planted….”

Gardening teaches you, quite literally, that there is a time for everything, but there is an order to the world. Spring comes after Winter, you can’t skip Winter, no matter how much you’d like to. To have a plant, a seed must be sown….Good lessons for life!

That is a wonderful ‘piece’ from the Bible. I thank you for reminding us of it, for those who weren’t of age when it was such a popular song sung by….which group?? Fran

Les September 23, 2008, 8:13 pm

Thank you for the nice post. Even though my spouse’s family is Jewish, Sukkot was not something they did. A devout former co-worker always celebrated the holiday to the hilt, and I was fascinated by her efforts as Sukkot (her Passover rituals were Olympian).

Fall is probably the longest season here, and I have many rituals to mark the season. The one I look forward to the most is the first. After a long hot season of rampant growth, I like the major cut back of all the summer growth to clean up the garden and to tame the jungle. It makes me feel focused and organized – a rarity in my life.

Great ritual. For those who cut back their perennials and shrubs during the fall season, I would guess that it is a feeling of completing a process and the ‘taming of the jungle’ as you simply said. Thanks for chiming in. Fran

wiseacre September 24, 2008, 8:53 am

Fall is a season of renewed energy for me. With the heat and humidity past it’s now time for rock work and preparing new beds for next year.

There is never time to relax , enjoy and contemplate the wonders of nature unless you make it a priority in your life. As I grow older I take more time to stand in awe as my time in paradise runs down.

I couldn’t agree more. Relaxing and attentively observing the garden takes discipline and deciding it is a priority, in spite of all of the chores that keen gardeners feel they need to accomplish during this hectic season. Yep, growing older often facilitates in slowing us down and appreciating the beauty surrounding us. Thanks for your wonderful thoughts. Fran

Gayle Madwin September 24, 2008, 4:04 pm

My favorite fall gardening ritual is fantasizing that the weeds I’m pulling are certain political candidates or ballot propositions.

Theresa/GardenFreshLiving September 29, 2008, 10:57 pm

I love this post!
My ritual? Every morning, after I wake my two boys and they start slowly coming to terms with starting the day for school…I pour a cup of coffee and walk my garden. I just take 10 minutes (okay sometimes 15) and take a look at what is happening. It is amazing how many wonderful moments you can have early in the morning.

This morning ritual also helps me catch impending disasters before they happen. I’ll notice a bug problem, or see that something needs staking, etc.

Those quiet moments give me time to gather my thoughts before diving into the day.

Hmmmm….what a fine ritual that is. Am wondering what time you actually get up to do this. I do think early, early morning is the most beautiful of all times to be in the garden and enjoy the beauty and awe of a new day. I love what you wrote…it sounds like these 15 minutes really give you an extraordinary feeling that takes you throughout the rest of your day. Thanks for your words. Fran

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