Find­ing post-elec­tion com­fort in na­ture

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Nina Beth Cardin Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin ( is the founder of the Bal­ti­more Or­chard Project.

Iwent to my woods for com­fort the other day — the way oth­ers may go to a bar, or the gym or to bed. It was an ef­fort to sort out what Amer­ica did and said and meant in this past elec­tion.

I ex­ag­ger­ate when I say my“woods.” My clutch of trees, re­ally. A dozen or so tulip poplars, one sugar maple, a stately beech that rules the front, and a strug­gling dog­wood that re­fuses to give up.

I be­gan with the leaves, those that fell on my front walk and piled up on my deck, clut­ter­ing the space to walk and sit and think. Putting my house in or­der seemed like a good start to re­claim­ing knowl­edge, per­spec­tive and heal­ing. Sweep­ing up piles of leaves is an un­der­tak­ing that I can con­trol, progress I can mea­sure, an achieve­ment I can cel­e­brate.

But clear­ing the walk and the deck wasn’t enough. The ache was much deeper. I needed more sweep­ing, more clean­ing, more clear­ing of the head, more time. If the work­ings of my mind couldn’t of­fer com­fort, per­haps my body could.

So I turned to the drive­way. This was a long, broad ex­panse in the bulls-eye of my trees. Sweep­ing it de­manded a greater reach than the short mo­tions de­manded by the walk and the deck. It called for long, arch­ing move­ments of the push-broom. In the midst of this oth­er­wise mind­less, al­most med­i­ta­tive bless­ing of move­ment, I all of a sud­den was trans­formed. I imag­ined my­self one of the lone, un­sung, sweep­ers who clean up the de­tri­tus af­ter pa­rades or po­lit­i­cal ral­lies. In a mo­ment, the land around me trans­formed into a gi­ant arena of our elec­tion, af­ter ev­ery­one had gone. The peo­ple, the noise, the clamor, the words, the vi­sion had all left. The leaves were all that was left be­hind, the brit­tle con­fetti of our aban­doned hopes.

There were thou­sands of them, ly­ing there spent and frag­ile. But amaz­ingly, when touched, they were not quiet. They were not yet done in. With each stroke of the broom they roused them­selves, rat­tled and protested, chided me and buoyed me: “Do not give up,” they seemed to say. “We did not grow and strug­gle and thrive in vain. This elec­tion is over, but the cause is not. Look up! Though we have fallen, we have left be­hind the buds of next year’s blos­soms. Tomorrow has al­ready be­gun.”

Sure enough, the buds were there, mil­lions of them, hold­ing the prom­ise of Amer­ica’s growth on the sturdy trunk of the tree of democ­racy. “But the buds’ pres­ence is just the start,” the leaves could have said. “Their health will re­flect the con­di­tions of their in­cu­ba­tion. They will grow in the wind and the sun, the rain and the warmth that will be unique to their time. But they will only do that af­ter the brac­ing win­ter ahead. It is in this win­ter that you must pre­pare for their health and their blos­som­ing. And as you re­new them, they will re­new you.”

So I swept up the leaves, grate­ful for their wis­dom. And as I cleared them away, I no­ticed some­thing else: the wispy elon­gated seed-pods of our tulip poplars that were stub­bornly left be­hind. They were all over the place. They found refuge in the crevices of my drive and re­sisted the urg­ings of my broom to move. In­deed, they could hardly be budged, and when they were, they didn’t go far but fell into my shoes and clung to my clothes. They were re­lent­less in their pres­ence. They were not go­ing to be swept away.

So it is with our dreams of tomorrow. They of­ten lay hid­den un­der the loss of to­day. But when we be­gin to clear away our hurt, hope and re­newal come peek­ing through. And like silent, un­bid­den prayers, they cling to us even if we are still too weak or bro­ken to cling to them.

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