It’s Fall and I’m Growing Underground

One of the things that I can’t get used to – even after 25 years – is when folks call soil “dirt.”


The dictionary offers these top 3 definitions for “dirt”:

  1. Any foul or filthy substance, as mud, grime, dust, or excrement.
  2. Earth or soil, especially when loose.
  3. Something or someone vile, mean, or worthless

Are you with me in feeling that number two just doesn’t belong there? When I hear the word used that way, I feel compelled to get down on the ground and defend the soil.

And truth be told, aren’t some of your most wonderful memories those of playing in sand, squishing clay, digging in the garden or even in a pot?

We resonate with the earth because we are of the earth. King Solomon says, “All came from the dust.”* And Adam is told that just as he originates from earth and dust, so too will he return to it.**

Growing up, through my teen years and till today, I have relished time with the soil, the earth, the dust. It brings me closer to my core and opens my heart and mind.

Here are some pictures and memories from one of the gardens I grew up in. And down below, two videos and some musings on growing with my current garden.

2011-11-28 07.31.05

2011-11-28 07.31.21
I grew up playing in the veld across the road from our home. A place where I saw hadedas for the first time through the smoke of an African fire.

Later, in a different home, I played between bamboo that grew beside the clay court overrun with grass.
2011-11-28 07.35.26
2011-11-28 07.39.10
I traveled the globe from the feet of the eucalyptus tree,

and ate apricots off the trees in the orchard…

Our Home
Then I moved into a
on the fifth floor
of a Brooklyn

For 20 years…

Now I live on the ground.


The garden out back
is not much longer
than the corridor of my childhood home.

We love each other.
And she has much to teach me.

As Fall moves forward into Winter and I sowed the seeds, I prayed to G-d.

I asked for the humility of a seed and for its resilience. These flowers are going to push through the earth in the Spring and reach for the sun. Their humility doesn’t mean they lack a sense of purpose. Similarly, I don’t have to surrender my vision. But I do have to let go of my ego agenda.

And even deeper than that – I have to have the courage to go underground and dissolve there if I am to grow. One of The Method’s most powerful Isms is, “You have to die in order to live.” I’m hoping to be able to do that – again.

*Ecclesiastes 3:20
**Genesis 3:19

If you enjoyed these ideas, you may be interested in The Method module called Do Think which explores the ongoing cycle of plant life as a metaphor for personal growth.


  1. Mia Sherwood Landau
    Mia Sherwood Landau On October 29, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Gardening is just IT. All life began in a garden. Your beautiful photos and memories touched me today. We won’t have a killing frost here in north Texas for another month or so, G-d willing, so our garden is still producing greens and herbs every day. Such a blessing.

  2. Shalhevet
    Shalhevet On October 30, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Love the pictures of your garden. I can tell she is a close friend of yours throughout your life. Gardens truly are metaphors in our lives. Just the feel and smell of soil in my garden helps to calm my soul and it transports me to a different realm of reality. What a blessing our gardens are for us.

  3. chana schoenberg
    chana schoenberg On October 30, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    nice shimona, thanks for sharing this. you are brave to try different plants from seedlings no less., for us here in Israel, no planting now, as we are taking a rest, being a shmittah year. before the new year I stocked up on succulents, they are hardy and enduring, and the wonderful thing about cactus is that every now and then it offers a surprise: a sudden blossom of glorious color that last for a few days and then vanishes as quickly as it appears….the little serendipitous surprises in life.
    One of my most significant childhood memories was playing in the dirt in our expansive backyard in LA, California aka “The Valley”.. we use to make elaborate water forts, with all sorts of rocks and plants, with miniature waters falls and little pools (provided by a hose); it was magical and captivating., funny how these memories stick around and to this day provide much joy. be in touch with us in the spring, and let us know how your garden grows and how those little seeds do, hopefully they will blossom with new hope

  4. melissa
    melissa On November 1, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Hi Shimona,

    I always connect with your spiritual teachings, but none more then this one!
    Thanks for sharing your pictures and memories of your childhood gardens, they were all so inspiring.

    I grew up in the projects in Brooklyn and Queens- in apartments , no garden at all. I decided I wanted to be a farmer when I grew up- this was the early 70’s- no Jewish Farm schools in NYC at that time.
    I went on to college and became an Aggie- studied Agriculture and got a BS degree in Agronomy. And later a Masters degree in Education. My soil professors would not hear of us calling soil, the beautiful organic matter full of life and the living, d*i*r*t.

    A lot has passed in my life- I worked in Agriculture in the Midwest US, Israel, Switzerland and Canada- now I am back in NY- teaching Agriculture Education on a small non profit farm owned by a church, which raises beautiful living organic produce for soup kitchen and food pantries and the hungry on Long Island.

    I also give programs in Jewish (and non Jewish) venues on programs like beekeeping and honey for the high holidays, Tu B’Shevat, Jewish ecology- etc, etc. BUT wherever I go wherever the classroom is, in a school or farm or garden-

    RULE #1 This is soil, pick it up feel it, smell it (the old farmer’s would taste it to determine the pH), love it- it keeps us alive and healthy. A healthy soil is a healthy plant and a healthy plant is a healthy animal that eats it.

    Dirt is what is under your bed…..

    much love,

  5. Chaya Bracha
    Chaya Bracha On November 2, 2014 at 12:39 am

    For the first time since leaving South Africa, I have a Garden again. I can feel the dirt under my feet and between my toes…Shimona this article was a gift which transported me to a safe and beautiful garden I used to visit when I was younger. When I close my eyes and breathe I can smell the jasmine and feel my toes in the earth. Am I awake or is this a dream? Whatever it is, it is wonderful!!!
    -thank you

    Chaya Bracha

    • The Kabbalah Coach
      The Kabbalah Coach On November 17, 2014 at 12:35 am

      Can so relate Chaya Bracha. Enjoy the garden – even as it turns to mulch. It’ll bring its growth with the Spring.

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