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5th Elul - gardening for the soul

Any gardener knows the importance of the work done in the Autumn. Clearing the beds of the colourful but dying annuals and tidying so that no shelter is left for the pests to overwinter. Rooting out moss and thatch from the lawn and digging small holes to aerate it. Lifting or protecting the tender species that will not survive the cold winter. My mother calls it “putting the garden to bed”, a phrase I have adopted as it reminds me that the work is not to end life in the garden but to create the best conditions for it to thrive. Sometimes we have to ‘put things to bed’, to encourage a dormancy which is no sleep but is space for growth and development, allowing the life force to gather and to express itself again.

As the internal work of Ellul and Tishri parallel the outdoor work in the garden, as I cut back and prune, dig and divide corms and tubers, trace the thin networks of weed roots through the soil and attempt to remove the unwanted activity in its entirety (always failing) my mind is sifting and worrying the knotty problems threading through my soul, attempting to let go of or at least prune the habits that have grown out of control. As I compost garden waste knowing that it will feed a new generation, I think about how I can best repurpose some of my emotions or thoughts for a healthier soul. No gardener throws out anything that can be useful, and no soul sifter should either. We both know that the new life flourishes on the bed of what came before; we simply have to put the work in to turn the unwanted and unhelpful bits into nourishment, and remove the bits that threaten to overshadow or strangle the new life just waiting to burst to the surface.

Sylvia Rothschild LBC 1987 Milan

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