Seasonal reflections from the garden


The High Holy Days, followed by the festivals of Sukkot and Simchat Torah, in addition to being times of renewal and hope, offer the chance to reflect on where we’ve been and where we want to be going.

The time spent in deep thought and prayer, especially on Yom Kippur, is always challenging, at times painful, but ultimately rewarding. Through the process, we cleanse our souls and recharge our spiritual batteries. We emerge feeling better about ourselves. We discover that trying to go “off the grid” for 24 hours – no phones, emails, social media – may be frowned upon by some, but makes us feel considerably less stressed.

Though not necessarily apparent, gardening offers similar benefits and is a good excuse to ditch the phones and devices for at least a few hours. Like our soul-searching during the ten Days of Repentance, gardening can yield moments of introspection, although it does require you to get your hands dirty.

I know that from assisting the real gardener in the family: my wife. I’m grateful to her for choosing to enthusiastically embrace that chore every year, because her diligence makes our property look infinitely better; without her efforts, we’d be overrun with weeds.

She never flinches from that mundane task, and she’s only too happy to hack away with gusto at the really invasive weeds that have thorns and attach themselves to perfectly healthy bushes and plants – not to mention our backyard fence. She also willingly spends several hours at a stretch, in reasonable weather (not in the 100-plus-degree real-feel temperatures we experienced too often this summer) beautifying our land. Through it all, she gets only half as exhausted as I do when I’m asked to dispose of the weeds, tree branches and other debris that’s been cut down.

Over the years, her dedication has been unwavering. She starts in the spring with the annual cleanup (an all-hands-on-deck chore), and follows that by planting flowers. This year, she also bought some flowers and plants from a big box store’s nursery that had been marked down and may have been jettisoned if they weren’t scooped up by a sympathetic gardener who felt they deserved a chance to thrive. Although some of them didn’t take root, her good-faith purchases resulted in a much brighter-looking landscape, including a flowering plant designed to attract hummingbirds.

She also bought a potted tomato plant that worked out so well that the wily critters who visit us by digging under, through and climbing over our chain-link fence couldn’t wait for the baby tomatoes to ripen, chowing down on all but four of them.

You may wonder what I do besides cleaning up the weeds pulled by my wife. I was tasked during this prolonged hot and steamy summer with the key job of watering the flowers and plants. And, once the watering days end later this fall, I’ll also be tackling the oldest and most vital of fall rituals: raking leaves, which I don’t mind doing for two reasons:

It’s a perfect way to pass the time by contemplating any issues that are on my mind.

Raking leaves easily beats what’s coming next: the thoroughly depressing – and bone-chilling – snow-shoveling that unfortunately follows those breathtaking fall colors.

The only good thing about winter is that it makes me yearn for the spring cleanup. That will mean that better days – and another growing season – will soon be on the way.

LARRY KESSLER is a freelance writer who can be reached at

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