Thursday, March 19, 2009

Salute to Spring (A Spiritual Web Journey)

Friday is the first day of Spring, and appropriately, this is also Shabbat Ha-Hodesh, the week where we welcome the beginning of THE month of months, the Spring month, as it's called in the Torah, the first biblical month, the month of Passover. So, happy new year!

In honor of Spring, I'm releasing to the public domain for the first time what was arguably my most environmentally-based sermon (and certainly the most "hands on"), delivered here on Yom Kippur way back in 1991, in my assistant rabbi days. Some might recall it as the "earth ball" sermon, when, while I spoke, the congregation passed a giant earthball, from one person to the next. You can find it just below, or, if that doesn't work, you can find it a variety of audio formats, by clicking here.

Sixty years ago, in 1949, a small book was published that some say revolutionized the environmental movement. In "Sand County Almanac," Aldo Leopold collected his nature writings into a year long diary, bringing us in tune with the rhythms of the seasons in his native Wisconsin. The Almanac was published just after he died, ironically, while fighting a wildfire. Nature's beauty and its cruelty were felt most acutely by this conservationist, who defined ecology as the "science of relationship" and understood that our relationship to the Land is the most fundamental of all. Read more about his life here.

As our thoughts turn to Spring, keenly aware that the Jewish calendar places us right in the front row of nature's miraculous blessings, here are some memorable passages from Leopold's work:

The Geese Return
One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring. A cardinal, whistling spring to a thaw but later finding himself mistaken, can retrieve his error by resuming his winter silence. A chipmunk, emerging for a sunbath but finding a blizzard, has only to go back to bed. But a migrating goose, staking two hundred miles of black night on the chance of finding a hole in the lake, has no easy chance for retreat. His arrival carries the conviction of a prophet who has burned his bridges.

A March Morning
A March morning is only as drab as he who walks in it without a glance skyward, ear cocked for geese...Once the first geese are in, they honk a clamorous invitation to each migrating flock, and in a few days the marsh is full of them.

Wild Things
There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot....Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them.

For more, see The Aldo Leopold Legacy Center, Reflections on Sand County, this book review, this tribute and the Zen Birdfeeder.

As John Denver wrote of Spring in his "Seasons Suite,"

Open up your eyes and see a brand new day

A clear blue sky and brightly shining sun

Open up your ears and hear the breezes say

Everything thats cold and gray has gone

Open up your hands and feel the rain come down

Taste the wind and smell the flowers sweet perfume

Open up your mind and let the light come in

The earth has been reborn and life goes on

Do you care whats happening around you

Do your senses know the changes when they come

Can you see yourself reflected in the seasons

Can you understand the need to carry on

Riding on the tapestry of all there is to see

So many ways and oh so many things

Rejoicing in the differences, theres no one just like me

Yet as different as we are were still the same

And oh I love the life within me

I feel a part of everything I see

And oh I love the life around me

A part of everything is here in me

A part of everything is here in me

A part of everything is here in me

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