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



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 (


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