Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Sweet Review: Homegrown Tomatoes: Essays and Musings From My Garden

By Rhonda on August 19, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
Judge Lemery has written before about his work as mentor with young men incarcerated at the juvenile prison in the community where his family has been rooted for generations. I had previously read, appreciated, and recommended widely his "Mentoring Boys to Men: Climbing Their Own Mountains." 

This new collection of short, powerful essays and poetry took me by surprise, nevertheless. I found myself moved to tears, uplifted, inspired, and even sometimes exalted as I read. 

I devoured "Tomatoes" in one sitting. These musings will inspire readers to look with new eyes at their own backyards and to dream of new ways to take action as peacemakers in our own communities. Something of a soul brother to the philosopher, scientist, writer, gardener and mystic, Rudolf Steiner (founder of the Waldorf School movement and of biodynamic gardening) 

Lemery truly believes in the inherent goodness and limitless potential of each person he meets. He is certain of the value of education as key to unlocking that potential. He understands that Nature can be our wisest and most gentle teacher and healer. These things shine through from these pages even as they illumine the hearts and paths of the young men whom Lemery befriends. 

Lemery's essays, like the parables of Jesus, are grounded in the most "ordinary" of human experiences: observations of plants and of birds, simple gestures of kindness offered to those who have been left wounded on the margins of life, zen-like questions about what we truly value. 

The most powerful essays are those where Lemery lets us enter his "secret garden" at the OYA. We are privileged to be there with him as he cooks, gardens, plays cards, laughs and sometimes cries with --but most of all listens to -- these young men, some of them serving long years in prison for offenses committed as juveniles. We are allowed to share Lemery's sorrow at how much betrayal, neglect and suffering too many children endure. 

And then we discover with him that seeds of Hope are miraculously still present, even in the dark, cold winter soil of these lives -- just waiting for the warmth of kind attention and rays of compassion in order to grow and to reach for the Light. This book encourages us to remember that we can each create something beautiful, something that will nourish others and ourselves, through the work of our own hands, provided we value and sharpen our unique gifts that are our "garden tools."

Highly recommended for teens, teachers, counselors, parents, social workers, book groups...and, of course, gardeners!

Homegrown Tomatoes is available as an e-book on Amazon.

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