Since many of you are new readers to my blog, I have been updating older posts from over ten years ago. Today’s post is on the theme of MITZVAH. In an earlier post on “Mitzvah” I talked about the many young men going through their Bar Mitzvah at the Wailing Wall of the old Temple in Jerusalem.
The top photo is one a colleague took of me standing at the Wall, offering up my prayers. You can tell I’m the tourist by the backpack!
The photo below is one I took while there quite a few years ago on my first visit to the lands they call Holy.
The best meaning for Mitzvah I can find is that it means “to express an act of human kindness.” What a wonderful theme for today’s world! I think need as many acts of human kindness as we can provide, so I’ll do my share!
It is said that prayers written on a tiny piece of paper, folded, then stuck into a crack in the wall, are received and answered by the Almighty. If you want to know the origin of this, read this.
Every faith has some form of prayer. Even those without a faith are praying when they say silently (or aloud), “I hope I pass this test.” I believe that any desire or need is received and acted upon. Words that are commonly used for the receiver are God, Holy Spirit, Higher Power, Allah, Great Spirit, Universe, Almighty, Energy Flow, and so many more. Regardless of the word we use, the meaning is the same.
To me, prayer is not so much what we are asking for, but listening to what we are to do. It is when I stop the “asking” that I begin “hearing.” Someone once reminded me that the answers we receive are either “yes” or “wait, because I have something better in mind for you.”
When I stood at the Wailing Wall, I was listening. When I worked on the lava field that was my home on the south end of the Big Island of Hawaii, I was listening. When I stand before my classes, I hear. Every sound in nature is telling me something. Every word uttered by another person is the answer to a prayer, whether I recognize it as that or not.
If more of us listened before we spoke, it might be a better and more peaceful world.
In the mid-thirties, The Night Is Young, a movie with Nelson Eddy and Irene Dunne, featured the song “When I Grow Too Old To Dream.” I suspect that most of you reading this will remember that song. I was a mere babe in arms at the time, but I know the song from having heard it over the years by various artists, including my parents.
That song floated through my thoughts the other day as I approach my birthday, and I decided Romberg and Hammerstein had those words all wrong!
The textbook out of which I taught a Human Development course at Hawai’i Community College categorizes the “young old” as 65 to 74, the “old old” as 75 to 84 and the “oldest old” as 85 and above. I won’t discuss my calendar age here, although I do admit to being over 65! In terms of the great site Real Age, my physical age is about 10 years younger than my calendar age. Another fascinating site is Living to 100 where I learned that based on my health and lifestyle, I will live to 104, and with a couple of minor changes, I could increase that to 108.
So do you think I am too old to dream? Are any of us ever too old to dream?
I don’t intend to stop dreaming until they sprinkle my ashes over the ocean. And who knows? Maybe I won’t stop dreaming even after that.
Please! Let us not stop dreaming, just because we think we might be “too old to dream.” The world is full of dreams just waiting for someone with our talents, our openness, our persistence, our love – no matter our age.
Just for fun, here is the front of the old sheet music for the song.
The official theme of this blog is ” homesteading, food, travel, and philosophy from the side of a volcano in rural Hawai`i.” So far, I’ve done mostly the first three, but very little of the fourth – philosophy. I could elaborate philosophically on many topics, and over the next few months, bear with me as do more of that.
The official title of this blog is “Lava to Lilikoi,” and that is a great deal like saying “how to make lemonade out of lemons.” In other words, when given an acre of lava, how do you produce lilikoi (our name for passion fruit) in abundance?
The drought has discouraged me from doing a lot of gardening, although I did plant 45 garlic cloves this week! They don’t like a lot of water, so this area should be perfect for them. I bought a pound of California softneck garlic from an heirloom seed company, since most stores sell garlic that is treated to prevent it from sprouting. (I understand that health food stores might have organic non-treated garlic, however.)
The opening photo shows some of these garlic bulbs, plus a few miniature pumpkins from the grocery store, and a couple of even tinier acorn squash that never did grow big enough to eat!
One of the many lessons of gardening I have learned has been not to plant anything that requires plenty of water, plenty of rich soil, or a different climate.
For example, my geraniums have taken over various spots of my acre, and they add a great deal of color to an otherwise gray landscape. Herbs in pots are growing nicely. I have been able to get some delicious beets and arugula occasionally. My donkey tails seem to do well. Palms that don’t require a lot of water are doing okay. Various flowering shrubs have done fine (when the Mouflon sheep don’t eat them). Other veggies did quite well when we had regular rains, or when the birds didn’t eat them.
Please don’t mistake this for complaining! I’m just stating facts about my own particular situation. Everyone in my garden club seems to be suffering from the drought, too.
So on this weekend after Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks for the beautiful ancient ohia trees scattered around my acre, for the hens that give me delicious fresh eggs, for the splashes of magenta, purple, orange, blue, red, pink , white and yellow that adorn my lava “lawn,” for a year-round temperature that allows me to be free from snow and ice. Living and gardening on lava makes me thankful for every single sprout!
I’m also grateful for my friends, whether here or on the mainland, who keep in touch; for my students who challenge me, and who keep my mind active and alert; for good health that permits me to continue gardening and teaching; and for my family members who make me proud to be their mama, grandma, and great-grandma, sister, cousin and aunt!
Finally, I’m grateful for my little Katrina, a sweet and photogenic joy in my life! Doesn’t she look pretty in blue?
I made my first visit to the Far East in 1966. If there is such a thing as a past life, I discovered it there. There are several events that have stuck with me for the past 40 years plus to validate those happenings.
One of those uncanny situations revolved around statues in various forms throughout my travels. It wasn’t until years later when I moved to Hawaii, that I discovered the significance of Kwan Yin (Guan Yin, Quan Yin) in all her various poses.
I began this month of posting everyday with a short post on Mitzvah, stating that I am not of the Jewish faith, so I want to say I am not of the Buddhist faith, either. There are elements of both that I find valuable and incorporate into my own faith, however.
So it is in keeping with the blogging theme of this month that I return to Kwan Yin, the goddess of compassion, a bodhisattva who continues to teach me more about being a spiritual female.
I am a retired United Methodist minister who uses meditation in several forms. So I feel free to let Kwan Yin guide me in my inner evaluations.
When I need to hear it, she reminds me to be compassionate with myself as well as others.
She reassures me that unconditional love, what we preachers call “Grace”, is for all people, including myself.
She is a constant reminder that the blessings of human kindness, or Mitzvah, connect us all.
Most of all, she reveals the feminine face of God, and allows me to experience my faith in ways that are more meaningful in my life, ways that are real.
As I travel throughout the world, it is hard to forget that we are all One, all needing that touch of human kindness and compassion that Kwan Yin offers. What a wonderful way to look toward the new year of 2010!
Remember the old saying: “April showers bring May flowers?” It takes more than just showers to have beautiful flowers in May – or June or July or any month. It also takes digging and planting, nurturing and patience, faith and prayer.
My maternal grandfather was a strong typical “type A” personality, but when he worked in his garden, he was calm, happy and peaceful. His special joy was in finding many varieties of iris. He would drive all over Southern Illinois in search of new iris plants. Studies have shown that in a similar way, Alzheimer’s patients who are placed in a garden all day are no longer violent.
I don’t plan on collecting iris, but I’ve thought about the many varieties of daylily or hibiscus available. I’m trying a little of each to see which ones grow best here. It’s hard to decide – so maybe I’ll collect both!
Even when I lived on my sailboat for five years, I had hanging baskets of cherry tomatoes and pots of aloe plants for sunburn and wounds. I needed that bit of plant material to make me feel like I had a garden. Various cultures around the world have special tales about the healing power of plants on all levels.
Some of my favorite times as a small girl were spent in a special cherry tree in the back yard of a parsonage. We only lived there a couple years, but as long as we did, I would climb up onto a high limb and read. As a lonely child, it was my way to escape. Many of us have had spiritual experiences with trees, but we don’t discuss them for fear of sounding silly. We rarely talk about the spiritual aspects of gardening, until someone of like mind brings up the subject.
Maybe I’m a little strange, but I talk to my plants. I haven’t really heard them talk back, although they do respond by growing and producing. I used to think people who talked to their animal pets were weird, too!
Today, I live on an acre of a’a in Hawai`i. A`a is lumpy, rocky lava that blew out of the depths of our volcano. The only way to plant something is to move aside the rocks and dump in a bag of soil, which filters down after a rain or watering and I need to add more soil. Still, there are nutrients in the greedy porous lava. Plants do grow, with a lot of prayer and patience.
Peter and Eileen Caddy were founders of the Findhorn Community in Scotland. They moved to a barren plot on the northernmost tip of Scotland, a place where nothing should have grown. Yet they made it work, through meditation and conversations with the nature spirits and “devas” – the angels of each plant. They claimed to receive gardening advice from those beings.
No matter what we may believe about all that, their results were incredible. I hope for the same results in my lava. Here in this little corner of the Big Island, I suppose it takes calling on Madam Pele, our volcano goddess – or maybe calling on the menehune.
I believe that if you are open to it, the process of gardening will tell you everything you need to know about life. There is a definite spirit of cooperation and communication between plants and humans. It is easy to see how we cultivate ourselves when we cultivate a garden. The idea is to relate to all living things as if they can understand, because they can! It is a living prayer.
Saint Fiacre is the patron saint of gardens and gardeners. He carries a shovel in one hand and a book in the other. He gave up his life as a prince of Ireland to live as a monk on the edge of a forest in France. Many people came to him for his healing through herbs and flowers. His reputation grew and ultimately, he built his own monastery that featured his healing plants.
Being There with Peter Sellars is a wonderful old movie. It is the story of a man who started out as sort of an idiot child who learned to garden, and could speak of nothing but gardening. Through a minor accident, he was brought into a home where he gradually worked his way up to international significance with only his gardening remarks. Everyone thought that his words were profound, and they became metaphors for everything from politics to world finance to love.