Sacred Rhythms and Raspberry Bushes
By Sara Gross Samuelson
The thing about rhythms in my life is that they only become so when they arise repeatedly, either by purposeful practice or mysterious accident. Often, the rhythms I find most grounding are the ones I stumble across accidentally, the ones that rise up out of the necessity of the calendar or of creation. This is how I found myself suddenly stumbling into sacred space around my yard bin on Saturday morning.
I was trimming back my summer garden, gloved hands, garden clogs, scrubby jeans and a yard bin that I had now stomped down twice because I can’t manage to spread my gardening work out over a reasonable space of time. My fall list builds until one day it finally bursts and I blitz through the needed tasks with reckless abandon, all the while silently apologizing to my long-deceased Grandpa Mac for letting such things go for so long without paying attention or anticipating the changing weather as I’m sure he would have in his own garden so many years ago. The raspberries, in particular, seem to have elicited a particular sense of duty in me of late. My earliest memories are of my Grandpa Mac’s prolific raspberry bushes and learning how to tell exactly when the best berries were ripe for the picking.
By last Saturday my raspberries had fallen into a sorry state of post-summer over-ripeness. Half of the berries were now molding on the vine and drooping heavily on the twine that once neatly held them back. What had once held the promise of summer bounty was now just a sad mess. So I began the work of pruning the bush back for it to lie in rest over the winter season. When you prune raspberries, you’re supposed to cut the vines “back to the wood”... that is, cut them back to the strength of what was established before summer even began. As I reached into the viney mess searching for the point at which to cut each vine back to, I found myself suddenly pulled in to this metaphorical wonder.
The rhythm of getting my produce ready for dormancy required that I look for their last point of established strength. Their last point of growth that “stuck” and bore some level of permanence. This is how the vine is able to become gradually more and more rooted in the soil around it. It’s taken three summers now for my raspberries to grow and root themselves deeply enough to fill out the 4’x8’ raised bed in which their 2’x2’ starter was first planted. All the while, I have tended each fall to helping them lie dormant in a way that will root them more deeply. Because my raspberries need these rhythms of restoration. And you know what? I do too.
So when my friend Ryan brought a similar idea to our community grounding the very next day, I found myself in awe of the confluence of the need of both the created world (ie, plants creatures, etc.) and the peopled world (ie, humans) for this pause as part of our natural rhythms. During our time together on Sunday, Heather called it a holy pause between the goodbye of one thing and the hello of another. Like when we say goodbye to summer and hello to fall, there’s a threshold where we pause and take time for that transition. (Relatedly, I definitely ordered the children’s book she read our kids to add to my kiddo’s shelf: https://www.powells.com/book/-9780544798755)
This thing, that both Ryan and Heather grounded us in, is sabbath. A pause. A break. Between one season and another. Between one thing and another. Between one day and another. It’s sacred space. AND…. as Ryan affirmed, it’s space that all of creation needs. I’ve been lax in my NPR consumption of late (#momlife) but I encourage you to give this a listen/read:
Sabbath is a rhythm. It’s a rhythm I stumbled upon in my garden last weekend in the midst of my raspberry bush. It’s a rhythm I noticed my body forces upon me sometimes when I pretend that I’m “not sick” for so long that I just can’t pretend any longer. It’s a rhythm that I think I should probably notice rising up sooner than those too-late sick days. It’s a rhythm…. Not one that I should “work for” or “achieve”, but one that I should practice for the sake of my work. For the sake of my spouse and my son. For the sake of my community around me. For the sake of creation. And… while it is indeed biblical, it’s also - as the NPR piece Ryan brought to us so aptly points out- quite plainly, human.
If you’re finding yourself in need of stumbling upon sabbath, you’re in good company. We’ll be digging into this again on October 20th at the LAB gathering. AND… it’ll probably continue to be something that rises up for us in community and communion with one another again and again.
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