One day in the early 1990s when the news was filled with the story of the Menendez brothers, my wife, Jane, was driving with our three-year-old daughter, Callie. A reporter said something about the Menendez brothers killing their parents and Callie asked, “Did they say ‘kill their parents’?” to which Jane quickly replied, “Yes, they were bad boys, weren’t they? We don’t kill our parents.”
It is autumn again, and life is speeding up. Students are back in school, classes are beginning and the fall programs of churches are in full swing. Wouldn’t it be good to find a spiritual discipline for these days that would remind us of the pace and the blessings of summer?
I hold three mottled white-and-burgundy beans in the palm my hand. The beans are named Jacob’s Cattle for the “striped, speckled and spotted” goats that Jacob bred to thwart Laban’s devious whims in the book of Genesis. The jar of shiny seeds will provide hearty, delicious winter meals. The plumpest of them supply next year’s crop.
Remember Gomer Pyle, the hapless and saintly TV marine? His philosophical lexicon was limited, but it included two all-purpose expressions: Surprise, surprise, surprise! and Shame, shame, shame! The first of these expressions, along with Golly! and Shazam! expressed Gomer’s childlike sense of wonder.
Plant a garden. Listen to birdsong. Sit quietly in a park without checking your phone. These activities are examples of ecotherapy, a form of mental health treatment based on the idea that nature has healing powers. “If you hold moist soil for 20 minutes, the soil bacteria begin elevating your mood,” says Craig Chalquist, an innovator in this new field. “You have all the antidepressant you need in the ground.” Chalquist maintains that it helps even more to give something back to nature—not just looking at trees, but caring for them (Atlantic, October).