Praying with Trees

Forests…appeal to all and awaken inspiring universal feelings. 

…It may be that sometime an immortal pine will be the flag

of a united and peaceful world.

 -Enos A. Mills

 

And you, how old are you?  I asked the maple tree. 

While opening one hand,

he started blushing.

-Georges Bonneau, Le SensibiliteJaponaise, 1935

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

It’s true: four days into February and I’m still blogging about New Year’s…because on some calendar, somewhere, it’s always a new year.  Two weeks ago, the Chinese rang in the Year of the Dragon and this coming Tuesday, February 7th, the Jewish calendar will celebrateTuB’Shevat, the New Year for trees.  That’s right, trees!

 

The celebration of Tu B’Shevat stems from a passage in Hebrew scripture, Leviticus 19:23-25, which explains that fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years and it is only after the fourth year (when the fruit is for G-d alone), that the fruit may be eaten.  The New Year for trees, therefore, was a way of commemorating the tree’s age and its pending harvest.   Historical reasons aside, I’m just still delighting in the idea of celebrating a Tree New Year.

 

It’s blog-worthy.

 

And while I could spend the next paragraph writing about tree conservation and reiterating why we need them for erosion evasion, water filtration and air purification, I’m not going to.  Nor will I use this New Year to recognize the many tree activists whose stories inspire me every time I consider their efforts: JohnnyAppleseed, Elzéard Bouffier, John Sterling Morton, WangariMaathai, Julia Butterfly Hill…and the monks of Thailand (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0I3Nz4cOeI).

 

Instead, and as plainly as possible, I want to thank the trees.

Tibetan nuns chanting beneath the Buddha's Bodhi Tree, Bodhgaya, India. 2003

I readily admit my life depends on them – they breathe in my discarded CO2, while providing me O2 in abundance, of course; but they also serve as metaphor in so much of how I make sense of life.  In my work with clients, for example, I’m constantly referring to trees: “What’s in your roots?” “You are growing a solid trunk,” “What have you offered up, in your branches?”   Do you do this, too?  Borrow from trees the strong, regenerative image they represent?

 

In my last post, I mentioned the frustration I was feeling toward the short-sightedness plaguing our culture.  Reveling in the long-sighted, patient nature of trees, I take deep delight in the Georges Bonneau quote above…

 

So do it now: picture your tree.  We all have one —  the one in the backyard, from which the tire-swing hung; the one we went to after school to exchange secrets, kisses and important social dirt; the one we’ve sought out for time alone, to whom we cry out, or confess, or find solace when the world’s busyness has become deafening.

 

Might this week be a time to thank our trees?  I encourage you to offer some gratitude at its trunk, speak your love poem into its bark, bring its fallen leaves to your dining table and offer your thanks to these beings, ever-wise, ever-patient, damn resilient, and ever-generous.

 

Dear Trees, Thank you, thank you, thank you….and Mazel Tov!  Happy New Year!

Tree Gratitude along Avenue of the Giants

 

 

Here Be Dragons!

Here be Dragons!
– Early European map makers’ warning

 

It never does to leave a live Dragon out of the equation if you live near him.
– The Hobbit, J.R.R.Tolkien

 

I always wanted to ride a dragon myself, so I decided to do this for a year in my imagination.
– Cornelia Funke

 

I love dragons.  Easy for me to say, having never physically met one, but I love the stories surrounding them.  Metaphorically, dragons offer warning and wonder.  In this Year of the Dragon, the warning signs are everywhere.  To be honest, I’ve been feeling pretty depressed by it all: warnings of the Keystone pipeline, warnings of drought, lack of snow and tornadoes in January, warnings of Planned Parenthood being shut down by a short-sighted right-wing agenda, infact, warnings of short-sightedness, in general.  I feel utter disbelief and pending despair about our society’s inability to be uncomfortable for longer than 30 seconds to simply think through our options and to be somewhat planful about our collective future.

 

But I don’t want to get stuck in despair and I’d like my disbelief to grow into something more inspired, which is the wonder piece.  I mean, a giant, winged, fire-breathing, riddle-solving creature?  Aren’t you a little curious?

 

Smaug, the dragon (The Hobbit); Image: David Wyatt

 

What if the dragon didn’t simply have to be slayed, but could indeed be tamed, transformed into an ally?  Then, like CorneliaFunke, we could ride a dragon!

 

The warnings surrounding us in this New Year are plentiful, and like any good dragon, they’re inviting us to sound the alarm and engage our wonder.  I wonder if we can create new jobs without injuring the earth.  I wonder if we can forge new relationships with our enemies and come to some new understandings about the things we mutally care about.  I wonder if we can begin – even in small and slow ways – to tolerate the uncomfortable, and blaze some paths to places we couldn’t possibly yet know.  Here be Dragons!  I want to meet them…who’s coming with?

Pete the Dragon, Image: Disney