Friday, September 18, 2009

Communing with Kale

by Barb Levy
I've decided to call these last few months My Summer of Kale. When I planted kale from seed, for my daily green smoothies, I had no idea that I would be harvesting its lush curly leaves for months. It is now mid-September, and I'm still picking leaf after leaf from tall, hearty stalks. And beyond providing me with tangible benefits—chlorophyll, protein, antioxidants, fiber—the kale in my humble garden has provided me with a steady diet of spiritual nourishment.

With little paid work and a lot of unstructured time, I've had the opportunity to create a daily routine that emphasizes silence and solitude, time with my animals, and reverential bows to my little patch of Eden.

When concerns about my own well-being, the state of the world, or the secret brutality of factory farms start to overwhelm me, I set aside my books, articles, and to-do lists, and try to listen instead—to birds twittering, guinea pigs cooing, the wind fluttering through the leaves.

Many of my best moments have involved sitting down to meditate with the kale. My gaze might rest on the glint of sunlight on a drop of water, or a bee working in earnest, before my vision melts into the kaleidoscopic pattern of the leaves and stems. I've discovered that this marvelous coalition of rich soil, tiny seeds, abundant sun, buzzing bees, wiggling worms, and careful tending by my own hands draws me to reflect upon all that I have, rather than on what I think I need.

In this summer of hot sun and drought, with fear and sadness riding tandem in and out of my thoughts, I simply marvel at the continual harvest of kale in my garden. When I do this, what slips away, even for a few fleeting moments, are the idle and anxious thoughts, reactions and distractions that vie for my attention throughout the day. I learn better how to observe rather than get caught up in my mind's incessant chatter, to turn aside from the distraction of technology and the daily broadcast of bad news.

Observing the secret life of kale teaches me that stillness can be more enlightening than ceaseless activity, that anxiety can be neutralized with reflection, that into a quiet mind can flow sure evidence of a thousand separate miracles. I know, in the core of my being, that we are all one, and that each moment is a new creation.

Barb was the only Girl Scout in her troop to earn the observation merit badge. She has six small animals who help her eat her vegetables, plus two cats. You can find out more about green smoothies on her website .

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