Harvesting Pearls

Harvest time is a reminder that another growing season is winding down and winter is waiting in the winds. Autumn presents a wistful time for avid gardeners. As I savor the second crop of my ever-bearing red raspberry pearls and hunt zucchini hiding under giant leaves, I realize that these pickings are precious due to their limited timeframe.

My aging garden is a reminder of our human life cycle. John O’Donohue, Irish theologian and philosopher, acknowledged both the fears and gifts of aging. Few speak as passionately about the gifts of aging as O’Donohue. Ironically, he wrote about autumn as a favorite season; he died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 52 before reaching the winter of his life.

O’Donohue’s old-soul understanding of aging inspires many: “…when it is autumn in your life, the things that happened in the past…almost unknown to you, now yield their fruit…you are able to gather lost moments and experiences, bring them together, and hold them as one…[you] see aging not as the demise of your body but as the harvest of your soul…aging can be a time of great strength, poise, and confidence.”

Much of American culture dwells on the spring and summer of one’s life as our times of strength and confidence. Productivity and optimal progress are most esteemed in the U.S. more-is-better attitude. Losses are sidestepped and sometimes denied because of “move-on” thinking. However, writer Joyce Carol Oates maintains that our losses make us more human. Near the end of her memoir, she consoles herself in her widow-status with these thoughts: “I kept myself alive…being older is this kinship of losing people. I have gained a sense of proportion…many things do not matter to me anymore…almost everything is trivial. People complain about the weather.”

Yes, people constantly complain about trivial weather conditions, although the devastating hurricane in Florida, frightening wildfires in California, and massive flooding in Pakistan (affecting 33 million) link people to interdependent losses. We might ask ourselves if we are in the autumn season of our planet. According to NASA, climate change (especially drought) has been the culprit for the rise and fall of past civilizations. Current NASA research documents the rapid changes in Earth’s ice sheets, along with rising global sea levels since 1992. NASA is one of 13 federal government agencies that make up the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Climate change can no longer be denied.  

Solutions to climate change include every world citizen: making biofuels from organic waste, increasing wind and solar power, protecting forests and green spaces, switching to sustainable transportation, encouraging more vegetarian meals, recycling, reducing energy usage, and cutting back on consumption and waste (as in using less plastic).

As we are gardeners of our planet’s bounty, let’s harvest some confidence that we can pull together for the benefit of our interdependent global climate.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

123. What solutions can you think of for reducing climate change?

124. How can you harvest confidence for taking action steps toward a green recovery?

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.


  1. First, we must use “global warming” instead of the less direct “climate change” to make the point clear. I see COMFORT, CONVENIENCE, and COST as the 3 evil culprits behind our selfish, short-sighted behaviors we must be aware of and willing to sacrifice. Our culture seeks happiness in the present. On Indigenous Peoples Day, I respect the philosophy of acting with regard for the 7th generation to come.


  2. Hi Jan,

    I surely enjoyed your wisdom today about aging gardens! Especially good was reading O’Donoghue;s wisdom again. I have always relished his thinking.

    Thanks for sharing, on this beautiful autumn day. Much Love, Mary Rose

    Mary Rose Lambke, M.S., R.N. maryrose38@icloud.com 630 215.6213

    “We are learning that a standard of social ethics is not attained by traveling a sequestered byway, but by mixing on the thronged and common road where all must turn out for one another, and at least see the size of one another’s burdens.” -Jane Addams, Democracy and Social Ethics, 1898



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