Friday, August 26, 2022



There is a brand new compost bucket sitting on our kitchen counter, provided by Island Grown Initiative.  This rapidly growing engine that is gradually transforming island consciousness about land use and food consumption was founded in 2006.   Their website clearly states their mission:  Food equity is the heart of Island Grown Initiative’s work on Martha’s Vineyard. Innovative, collaborative programs in regenerative farming, food waste reduction, and community education help make good food accessible to everyone.

Regenerative farming is a new and exciting term to me as my consciousness of food equity and care of the earth continues to expand.  Regenerative farming means low or no tillage, use of cover crops and mulches, composting, diverse crops in the field rotation, grazing animals, no synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.
Regenerative farming focuses on improving the health of the soil.

Each time I look at the ever present compost bin I am reminded of the echoes of the concept of the Jubilee Year commanded in Leviticus 25 - a year of “release throughout all the land for all its inhabitants.”  The year was to be one in which the land was permitted to rest - a year in which there would be no sowing of seed or cultivation of the land, no reaping of the “aftergrowth or harvest of the untrimmed vines.”

The Jubilee Year was largely aspirational. Historically, it probably never actually happened.  However, it continues, generation after generation to hold before us the principle of honoring the land, the earth, upon which we depend for our very lives.

As our island grows in ways to be self sufficient in the face of the climate crisis and the anticipated

supply chain disruptions and the unavailability of adequate food supplies, it is unlikely that our farms will ever be given “rest.”   So it seems as though “regenerative” methods are critical at this time on the planet.  We have to do better in managing the ways we live on and interact with the Mother of Us All.  
Part of what this means is that we are learning to eat “closer to the land.”   And that means a gradual change of diet, leaning toward eating foods grown locally.  Eventually that will mean that we find substitutes for the oranges and grapefruit that are so readily available in the supermarket. The potassium for which we appreciate bananas will have to be found in another source that does not require shipment from some far off land.  It will mean going through the process of identifying locally grown foods that supply all the diverse nutrients that we are accustomed to having at our fingertips in the supermarkets.  

Given the aspirational inspiration of Leviticus and what it holds in the way of both challenge and hope

makes the bi-weekly trip to the local farm for our CSA share a bit of a spiritual, perhaps even religious, journey: witnessing the care that is given to all aspects of farming there; enjoying the mostly “30-somethings” who staff the farm out of love for the land and for the work of producing nutritious food sustainably; being exposed to and stimulated by a real, physical working effort to feed more people more equitably in a culture where affluence can easily ignore the nutritional stress of so many families who must make the choice between paying the rent and putting food on the table.  
Supporting small, local farms that are learning and practicing what is required for the good of the earth and for its inhabitants is the coming thing to do wherever and whenever possible.  Future sustainability depends upon it.

 That modest compost bucket on the counter stimulates a lot more consciousness than one might expect!

Vicky Hanjian

Friday, August 19, 2022


 It has been one of those days.  The sermon awaits completion.  The order of service still needs attention.  Only now am I sitting down to put some thoughts on paper for this blog.  I have been awake since 4:30 AM.   Surely all of this should be done by now.  But the sheets on the bed needed to be laundered.  The compost needed to be taken out to the composter.  The extravagant farm surplus from our CSA needed to be shared with a neighbor. An unexpected phone call from a beloved friend usurped an hour of the morning that I had planned to use for writing.

I am reminded that life is what happens while I am busy making other plans. 

My dear friend is a grieving widow faced with the possibility of the sale of her apartment building and  having to move while still somewhat immobilized by her sorrow.  Her finances are stringent.  Her options seem confusing and elusive. She is alone. Her 43rd wedding anniversary fell yesterday on the 10 month anniversary of her husband’s death.  An hour long phone call is hardly enough time to hear her ongoing sadness and immobility as she tries to see what the next  steps on her life journey will be. Her sorrow is papable.

While on the phone, as I sat in my living room  so comfortably furnished the way I want it, with my husband nearby working out a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle on the dining room table, waves of gratitude kept sweeping over me.  We own our own home, mortgage free.  No one else’s decision will sell it out from beneath us.  My husband is still alive!  We will celebrate 61 years together this year.  I am not alone!  Our adult children live nearby.  They are attentive without hovering.
We live in a community we love.  We have the freedom to choose how much or how little we will engage with life beyond our four log walls.  We have enough resources to keep us from feeling edgy every time a car or household repair needs to be done. 

The things I need to accomplish today seem negligible in the face of my friend’s tumultuous grieving.  Indeed, they are of no consequence at all when I glance at the daily headlines. Our local paper reports that two vibrant young Jamaican men drowned in our waters over the weekend, having done some night jumping off a very popular bridge, without knowing how strong the current was.  An entire Jamaican family and community thrown into profound mourning.  An entire island community sobered by the reality of lives lost while enjoying innocent pleasures.

 Afghan women suffer ever more under the repressive and oppressive regime of the Taliban.  Another crazed driver uses an automobile as a weapon of terror in Texas.  Quite possibly the most intelligent woman in Wyoming loses a critical election to someone who does not have the health of our democracy on her horizon.  Elsewhere women of color, women with limited means of support, financial or otherwise, young women with their entire lives ahead of them, struggle with how to manage their reproductive lives with freedom.

As Sunday morning rapidly approaches, and “Come Sunday, Come Sermon,” there is no lack of “grist for the mill.”

The message could really be quite simple.  The words have already been formed and spoken:
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way were the prophets before you persecuted.”

Perhaps the interruptions that life throws in the path of the best laid intentions are where the real sermons of life exist.

Vicky Hanjian

Friday, August 12, 2022


 It’s that time of year again.  Cars are packed to the roof with clothing, bedding, electronics, books, favorite belongings to replicate something like home.  Parents keep asking “have you packed…?”  Young adults roll their eyes.  The scenario is playing itself out a few blocks from our home as our granddaughter prepares to leave the nest yet one more time, this time for graduate school.  Next week the drama will play again as our grandson returns to college after a long Covid induced hiatus.  

As grandparents, we will experience the phenomenon of  “empty - nesting” again.  One would think, having been through it before, we would be used to the comings and goings of our grandchildren.  But it is new every time.  In the enforced interruption of their studies due to Covid, we have gotten to know them as emerging adults.  We have enjoyed witnessing their evolving sense of responsibility and their increasing ease in moving about in the various worlds they encounter.  In some ways this makes the next leave-taking a little easier on us.  We don’t worry about them as much as we did when they were younger - - and yet, we still wait for news of their safe arrival at a new destination; we still sort of hold our breath when they are driving unfamiliar roads; we are conscious of holding them more closely in our hearts as they exit the nest again - each leave taking bringing them closer to the final one - - where they leave the nest and don’t return except for long awaited holiday visits.

Change is an accepted fact of life, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging or strenuous each time we go through it again.  We are gradually learning that the transitions set in motion by change  are constant and unsettling while at the same time offering opportunities for growth and transformation. 

Somehow, no matter how much we think we are prepared for the physical change that is about to take place, ie the scouting out of second hand pots and pans and dishes and linens for our granddaughter’s new apartment, all the physical preparation for a change does not prepare us for the necessary transition that will attend the change.   

Transition is an emotional, spiritual and psychological work and somehow we are never quite prepared for it. Transition means an ending is happening or is about to happen.  As I recall the first “empty-nesting” process, we witnessed our grandchildren leaving the nest as young, just out of high school, late adolescents.  Between the beginning of September and the beginning of the winter holiday break, they became different people in so many ways - had their own opinions;  were capable of making more decisions on their own; were ever more appreciative of the nest from which they had sprung.

Childhood had pretty much ended. They had done the strenuous work of transitioning to young adults.  We, as the adults left behind, experienced that ending of their childhood and had our own transition to go through.  Letting go of the precious life of “hands-on” grand-parenting of young children meant we needed to grow up a bit ourselves.  Now there were new young adults in our lives and that meant learning new ways of loving without condition; new ways of witnessing their lives in the present; new ways of being present to our grandchildren as they become adults.

I find myself feeling grateful for what William Bridges, in his book Transitions:Making Sense of Life’s Changes, labeled “the neutral zone,” that time between what was and what is to come, a sort of “gap in the continuity of life”  where we might take time to process the change and gradually get re-oriented to the new way of being on the other side of the transition.  Making use of this “dead zone” seems to be the key to making a successful transition  to what life will be like when the familiarity of the old is stripped away by change.  It made see me appreciate more the common sense of the advice to newly widowed people not to make any big decisions in the first year after the death of a spouse, but rather allow for the time required to adapt and adjust to the loss and to being a single person again.  I also have a new appreciation for the meaning of a “gap year” that so many students wisely take whether after high school or between college and graduate school.  Far from “wasting time,”  spending that period in a sort of “neutral zone” allows for a successful transition from one way of being to another.

Change is constant and inevitable.  Transition is strenuous.  But the potential for the joy of transformation awaits as the process unfolds.  So I try to put a lid on my sense of anxiety, my reluctance to let go, my fear of the unknown that accompanies every change - - and pack a few more necessary snacks and odds and ends that  may come in handy when setting up a new apartment.  I hug my granddaughter and tell her I’ll see her at Christmas.  And she is off again!!

Vicky Hanjian

Friday, August 5, 2022

"You Shall Be..."

 For some reason, I awoke from a dream this morning with the jeweled breastplate of the high priest in ancient Israel on my mind.  Go figure.  Since the image kept nagging in consciousness, I decided to follow it back into the description of the breastplate in Exodus 28.  In the midst of a lot of detailed description of the garments that the high priest of Israel was to wear for ritual purposes is the colorful detail of the chosen mishpat (the “ch” is pronounced with a sort of ‘clearing the throat’ sound), the breast plate of decision or judgement.  It was a ritual garment crafted from gold and blue and purple and crimson yarns, and “fine twisted linen” embellished with 4 rows of precious stones.  In my imagination it appears rich with the deep jewel tones of carnelian and emerald, turquoise and sapphire and amethyst  - 12 stones in all - each representing one of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Upon it were also constructed the Urim and Thummim which were items that constituted a device for determining the will of the Holy One in matters that were beyond human ability to judge.

What impressed me most after all the glorious and colorful description of this ritual part of the high priest’s garments were the instructions for the intention with which it was to be worn by the high priest: “Aaron shall carry the names of the sons of Israel on the breastplate of decision over his heart when he enters the sanctuary for remembrance before the Lord at all times.”   

I have often thought about how life might be different if we human beings were to wear some kind of beautiful ritual garment over the heart that would keep us always mindful of the sanctity of each human life we encounter in our daily wanderings.
I wonder if such a garment might give us pause before giving silent permission for more prisons to be built?  Would it help us to see people without homes as precious lives huddled in alley ways and under bridges? Might wearing a beautifully woven garment of decision and judgement make us more alert to laws that dehumanize and dis-empower some of the most vulnerable among us?  How might a Supreme Court make decisions guided by a just mercy well tempered with compassion rather than power politics if the justices were required to wear an elaborate jeweled garment representing all the people over their collective heart - - reminding them?

Another ancient command comes to mind: “you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).  Even taken out of context, it is a reminder to humankind of a high calling; a reminder that we have the capacity to be whole -  - wholly whole - - not just as individuals, but as a collective expression of the very highest levels of creativity and generosity and hospitality and compassion.  We have written within us the capacity to be priests to one another in the highest and best sense of the word.  We have within us the ability to recognize one another’s wholeness - - one another’s holiness. Not only that, but we are also capable of being on the receiving end of the priesthood of another when we are in need of wisdom, comfort, guidance, strength, or compassion.

The high priest’s breastplate was to be worn by Aaron “over his heart when he enters the sanctuary for remembrance before the Lord at all times.”  The BaalShemTov (Master Of The Good Name) wrote: Remembering is the source of redemption, while forgetting leads to exile.)

Living as we do, in an unrelentingly stressful world, it is easy to live in a state of forgetfulness - or absence of mindfulness.  In remembering who we are, who we are in relationship with  one another, there is our redemption - our “return” as it were, to wholeness and holiness - - our return from exile.  

The ritual garment, the jeweled breastplate with the Urim and Thummin reminded Aaron of his high calling.  When putting on the ritual garment he was to carry the names of the tribes of Israel on his shoulders “like a father carrying a child on his shoulders to keep the child safe.” (B’er Mayim Hayyim).  Aaron was  told to carry the names of the tribes over his heart so that when making judgements, he would consult not only the rules, but his heart as well.   It is a heavy priesthood.  We need to take up the garments together.

As we enter this day:
May we be peaceful.
May we be happy.
May we embody love and understanding.
May lovingkindness manifest through our lives.
May we receive the priesthood of all whom we meet.
May we offer our priesthood to others.
May we dwell in peace.

Vicky Hanjian