A Balance Garden is a Beautiful Thing

A Balance Garden is a Beautiful Thing

I have a friend with a pristine garden. It’s absolutely immaculate. Not a spot on a leaf nor a leaf on the ground. He is quite proud of his work. Yet I am so conscious when I walk into his garden that there is nothing alive but the plants. True, there are no pests. But there are also no ladybugs, no birds, snakes or toads. These usually welcome creatures are living somewhere else. Somewhere with plenty for them to eat.

Ladybug larva

 With the gardening season upon us, I can’t help but reflect on the best of last year’s garden. One of my most gratifying sights was in late September when the tomatoes were in full blush. I noticed that some of the leaves looked a little odd, sort of minimal. At this point in the season, I wasn’t concerned, although I did start looking casually for tomato hornworms. I found one and then another and then another. Every tomato plant had at least one or two of these giant green caterpillars, and they had feasted on some of the top leaves.

When I questioned him about how he got his garden so clean, he hemmed and hawed a bit, and then had to admit the truth. He has an unbelievable routine of chemical pest control and fertilization. If he didn’t spray constantly, pests and diseases would quickly make short work of his garden and he knows it.

The beauty of this picture was that each caterpillar was bedecked with white cocoons of braconid wasps. These tiny wasps lay their eggs inside the caterpillars, and as the eggs hatch and grow, the larvae weaken and eventually kill the caterpillar. These wasps in my garden prevented the hornworms from producing that nightmare, the skeleton tomato plant with no leaves. My husband thought it cruel that I left the caterpillars with their guests in the garden, but I took great joy in wishing them well.

Tomato hornworm with wasp cocoons

The best part about seeing these caterpillars is the reinforcement that my garden is naturally balanced with predators and prey. This is what all organic gardeners strive for, and it’s such an ephemeral thing that you never quite know how in-balance your garden is. But a garden out of balance is one in which a pest can come in and wipe out a crop or a shrub before the gardener is even aware of what is going on.

A critical aspect of the entire idea of pest management is that we must tolerate a few pests. As long as they don’t reach critical proportions and do unacceptable damage, they are actually helping by providing food for the beneficial insects.

With all we hear these days about the value of preventive health care, it seems logical to take the same approach in the garden. It makes so much more sense to prevent problems from the outset instead of having to resort to methods that are more drastic than necessary.

It’s true that the best thing you can put into a garden is your shadow. Spending time in the garden with a practiced eye will alert you to the first tiny holes in the broccoli leaves from flea beetles or the tips of your roses adorned with tiny pink aphids. Yet how satisfying to see a ladybug larva with its huge jaws around one of those aphids or to put up row covers knowing the beetles can’t get in.

Kate Jerome



Will You Dream With Me?

This past week, The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) hosted the 62nd General Assembly (GA) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a first-timer to GA, I was dazzled to see thousands of Unitarian Universalists coming together, in the City of Bridges, to conduct their yearly ritual of business resolution and communal worship. As a faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism has been in a state of rebuilding. The pandemic has seen major changes in our associated congregations resulting in a shifting landscape that, for some, has felt disorienting. Recent events at the UUA have caused us to become more aware that change is necessary in our stance toward dismantling systems of oppression and racism. Yet in this time of transformation, there has been positive movement toward redefining who we are as an association of congregations and what it means to be Unitarian Universalist.

As a result of the business last week, our associated congregations chose to call and elect the Rev. Dr. Sofia Betancourt to the position of President of the UUA. Rev. Betancourt previously served as one of three interim presidents and now succeeds the Rev. Susan Fredrick-Gray. Rev. Sofia is the first out, Queer person and first woman of color to serve as UUA President. Along with electing the next president of the UUA, delegates present voted by an 86% majority to advance the proposed amendments to the Article II bylaws that govern the UUA. A final vote to codify the proposed changes to Article II will take place at the General Assembly in 2024. The last revision to Article II occurred in 1987.

During one of the general sessions, Rev. Sofia answered questions related to what she saw as the goals of her presidency and her thoughts about the Article II process. “I want us to have a shared language that doesn’t separate us from what matters most. We don’t need to claim the language of someone else’s values, but lean into our own pluralistic, diverse, language.” Rev. Sofia spoke about how she sees this as a time when we need to lean into our covenants with each other while we explore our shared values. “We are in a reimagining and rebuilding moment where risk-taking is central to who we are.” Rev. Sofia summarized her thoughts by saying, “Article II allows us to dream again.” She then asked, “Will you dream with me?”

During the Service of the Living Tradition, Rev. Chris Buice of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation (TVUUC) spoke about our metamorphosis into who knows what. The music that accompanied the service asked us, “What do we need to imagine… change.” He reminded us that “We are not changing because we want to. We’re changing because we have to.” As Rev. Buice so eloquently stated in his sermon, “In the Unitarian Universalist church we believe in evolution. Now we actually have to practice it. We have to adapt to change. We have to evolve.”

As we are soon to enter a new church year, what do we at the Unitarian Universalists Congregation of Asheville need to be able to adapt to change, to reimagine our commitments to one another, to reinvest in our shared values? Can we recommit to Love, Justice, Interdependence, Equity, Transformation, Pluralism, and Generosity? Can we learn to stay at the table and rebuild relationships with ourselves and with those in our community? Rev. Sofia stated it so well when she said, “I want us to be publicly obnoxious about our values.” So, Dream with Me UUC Asheville. Let’s step into a world of imagination and wonder as we continue to live into Beloved Community.

Blessed Be,
Shawn Gibson (He/Him)
Member since 2018, Seminary Student at Meadville-Lombard Theological School

Learning About & Getting Involved in Asheville’s Reparations Effort

Sept. 28, Curious Conversations: Reparations; Noon-1:00pm, bring a bagged lunch. Facilitator: Rev. Claudia; Discussion questions and background information here.

Since March of 2022, the Community Reparations Commission has been working to establish recommendations for consideration by the City a County. On Saturday, Oct. 7, a Community Reparations Summit will be held, providing an opportunity for the public to hear directly from the impact focus areas of criminal justice, economic development, education, housing, and health and wellness and provide feedback on their draft recommendations.

The Summit will be held from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7 at the UNC Asheville Sherrill Center, 227 Campus Drive, Asheville. Parking and admission are free, but attendance is limited and registration is required. Click here to register.

The event will also feature keynote speaker George Fatheree, who helped return $20 million to the descendants of the owners of Bruce’s Beach, a popular California waterfront property, after it was wrongly taken from them in the 1920s.

Leading up to the Summit, UNC Asheville will host two free movie nights:

  • “Black in Asheville” on Monday Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m. followed by a discussion with filmmaker Todd Gragg
  • “The Big Payback” on Thursday, Oct. 5 at 6:30 p.m.

Both movies will be shown at the Mullen & James Humanities Hall, 600 Theatre Lane, Woodfin on the campus of UNC Asheville. Doors will open at 5:45 p.m., and free parking will be available. Food trucks will be available in the parking lot for moviegoers beginning at 5 p.m.


Loving Kindness

Sunday, June 25, 11:00am
Guest Speaker, Sequoyah Christine Rich
Join us for an exploration of the Buddhist perspective on: Loving Kindness. Rumi said, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

June, Appreciation, and Ted Lasso

June has been the month to express gratitude.  As the final school bus passed my house on a recent June afternoon, I silently thanked the teachers who made me…those teachers who made me think, who pushed me to do better than I thought I could, who showed kindness to me during the hard times of my childhood.  I thanked the parents who made sure that I went to school everyday, tired or hungry…no excuses…and held me responsible for homework and good grades. It feels good to be old enough to finally appreciate all those folks.

At the grand finale of the June 4th business meeting, UU Asheville thanked the many members who have served the congregation this year. It was a long ceremony of gratitude and it could have gone longer. Acknowledging service to our UU community is important. A lot of hard work (from finding an outstanding new minister to brewing the coffee) was recognized because all service, large or small, is important in the big picture.

Ted Lasso (for those of you who may not waste time streaming/watching sitcoms as I do) is a feel good show about a soccer coach who moves to England and doesn’t know much about soccer or how to navigate new social contexts.  He doesn’t even drink tea. But he does know how to build connections between his team, his staff, and total strangers by small acts of kindness and daily appreciation. When someone does or says something helpful, Ted says “I appreciate you” instead of “I appreciate it.” He emphasizes the message that we should appreciate the people in our lives more than the things they do for us. It’s a small semantic difference but an important one if you are one being appreciated.

If the month of June reminds us to recognize those people who contribute to the betterment of us all, then I’d like to be more like Ted Lasso. As I leave the Board of Trustees after three years of service, I appreciate the board members who were patient, who helped and encouraged me when I was struggling to learn the ropes.  I appreciate Rev. Cathy Harrington and the UU congregants who showed me kindness during the 2022 death of my husband.  I appreciate the UU staff who work so hard behind the scenes and who make the Sunday service look easy. I appreciate the person who smiles at me on Sunday morning for no good reason and gives me hope that the world is still a good place. I appreciate you if you have finished reading this and I hope you will appreciate all the people in your life who make it worth getting up for in the morning. And most of all I hope you appreciate you.

Karen Dill, UU Asheville Board of Trustees, Outgoing