We’re full into summer here in the subarctic and nearing the summer solstice. In other places, that’s not really a big deal, but here each solstice is an event because it means either the sun is coming back or it is finally going to wane. This far north, the sun behaves so much more like the moon, varying widely. The cycles are just longer and a lot more dramatic. Once the solstice comes, we will not really have any darkness and that “night” will mark the beginning of the sun’s retreat as darkness and cold once again begin to reclaim the subarctic. For now, we’re still seeing the sun driving away the darkness.
As a result, things grow…FAST. Where once there was nothing that could be seen to be alive, suddenly there is growth. We have fewer plants that grow up here, but those that do, grow far beyond what you would expect. If you get one local zuchinni…I hope you’re expecting guests because it will be about 2-3 feet long and huge. Cabbages grow enormous and those who do manage to grow pumpkins could probably move into them by the end of the season.
In my yard, I have a fenced in, concrete bunker that surrounds a patch of rhubarb. I can cut the rhubarb to the ground, make as many pies as I please, and I will still have more rhubarb within a couple of days. I was excited at first, since Mr. Safek really loves rhubarb. His grandmother would make him rhubarb pies, so it brings back fond memories. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of rhubarb recipes beyond ones that pour in a ton of sugar. The other thing I have in excess is bleeding hearts. They’re lovely with pink and white flowers, but it’s pretty clear that if I don’t start cutting them back we may well have a yard of nothing but bleeding hearts.
I think there is a lesson here.
These plants make the most of where they live. It’s not the easiest climate for any plant to make a home, but they take the positives, those long hours of endless summer sunlight, and they put it to good use. They make the best of the “negatives” by quieting themselves during the cold darkness, stilling their growth and letting the deep snow cover them, protecting their roots. They know the sun will return and don’t worry themselves about the long winter. They just wait for their time to grow and then make the most of it.
Likewise, it’s easy to get so focused on being frustrated at my job or wishing we were already moved…or just wishing it was Shabbos already or wishing Shabbos would end earlier than the middle of the night. By focusing on everything that isn’t now, though, what opportunities do I miss to grow the most I can, here and now? Hashem planted me here for a reason. When no other jobs worked out, there is a reason a job in Alaska did and brought my family all the way here and there’s a reason for every twist and turn that brought us to this moment, here. Just as there is a reason you are planted where you are, right now.
The rhubarb and the bleeding hearts know how to find the opportunities in a challenging situation and as a result, they grow, beautifully and prolifically.
This Shabbos, we’re enjoying a fresh strawberry and rhubarb pie and I plan on being still and looking for the lessons right around me that will help me grow while I, too, am planted here. And yes, that is a picture of my huge patch of bleeding hearts.