Girls are giggling and dancing in a circle, linking their arms and kicking their feet. They’re second graders and they’re girl scouts. It’s a Sunday morning and I’m at work, but it doesn’t really feel like that. Moments earlier we’d dipped our slices of apple into some local honey while listening to the sacred and stirring sound of a trumpet’s blast from a ram’s horn.
“Tomorrow is the Jewish New Year,” a man named Ken explained. “But in our tradition, we don’t say ‘Happy New Year,’ we say ‘Have a Good Year’ because we can’t guarantee happiness, but we can guarantee goodness.” He then blew the ram’s horn as a way to welcome in a season of harvest and to ask for blessings for Rosh Hashanah.
It’s moments like this, sticky fingers and a smile on my face, listening to Old Crow Medicine show (because the girls requested “hoedown” music), that I have to stop and wonder at the overwhelming amount of goodness in my life. Unexpected, undeserved, and overflowing with sweetness.
The place we were gathered is called the Mitzvah Garden, a community run garden that sustainably grows food solely for the purpose of feeding the hungry. Over the summer, I’ve come here many times. I’ve come with I.C.U. nurses who work in pediatrics, I’ve come with youth groups of teenagers who sang to the sweet potatoes as they were being planted. Each time I come I’m filled with a sense of peace as I learn something new about what it looks like to live out your intentions.
Because, let me tell you. It takes intention to plant a garden that feeds hungry people. It takes intention to graft pear trees, to build solar panels rain barrels. It takes intention to harvest cucumbers in 90 degree heat.
Intentions can be tricky. This year it was my intention to work as a nurse for Nature’s Classroom. I was going to take the summer off and then move to France to begin teaching English. When that didn’t work out, it was my intention to come home for a few weeks before moving to Austin and working on a farm or hostel or who knows what.
Just like the tomatoes got too much rain too early and then too much heat later on and so split open and weren’t ready for harvest until late in the season.
The timing was just off.
I came home and physically couldn’t leave. My body would not let me even think about moving anywhere else or going on one more possible adventure. So the adventure became rest. It became stillness.
This summer, I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes the potatoes just aren’t where you planted them. You can dig and dig in a straight line and sometimes all you find is dirt. I’ve learned that to plant a garden that feeds hungry people, you can’t just rely on potatoes and tomatoes. You plant kale and some turnips, too. You plant corn and peppers and onions. You plant garlic and cabbage. Because intention isn’t enough.
Just like farming, we can’t predict the seasons or the hardships of life. We can’t guarantee happiness or success. So we do the best we can. We act on our intentions with the best of our ability and then we let go.
The frost will come. The voles will shred your sweet potatoes. The sun will be too hot too early and the rain might be too strong. But things will grow. In perfect timing, the right plants will survive and begin to thrive. The harvest will come and there will be plenty. Especially if we share. Especially if we trust and allow goodness to be enough. Because it is.
Wishing you a season of harvest, of goodness, and love.