Celebrating the New Year for the Tree on Tu B'Shevat * what the tree outside my window told me. *
We’re facing each other. At last. This must be the moment when she’s going to listen to me. The sun is setting, casting its golden light on my uppermost bare branches. I am glowing at the top, my trunk and lower branches dark and sombre. Across the field behind me, the sky is hazy pink and the blue is draining out of the winter sky.
I am reaching out to her. I want to connect. She says she’s ready to hear me and then gets distracted and wanders off. I understand that it’s hard for humans to focus. They suffer from what they call ‘monkey mind’.
I stay very still, holding my breath, waiting. I peer in through the window, willing her to empty the sacred space between us of all her wild monkey thoughts.
‘Let me in,’ I whisper.
She’s sitting inside, looking out the window, facing me. ‘OK, I am here,’ she says.
She wriggles, scowls and settles herself more firmly in her chair. Then she sighs and smacks her forehead. ‘The space is already full,’ she says regretfully. ‘I can barely hear you above the noise of my thoughts. I think I just can’t do it. I’m sorry. I know you’re trying to tell me things and I really want to listen to you but…’
‘Ground yourself, my friend,’ I say gently. ‘Send roots down from your feet, from where you are sitting on the chair. Send your roots down through the floor into the ground. Through the topsoil. Go deeper. Let your roots divide and subdivide. This is where we meet. We are here together.’
I wait until I can feel her roots touching mine. Softly and tentatively at first, we embrace. We wrap around each other, we become intimately intertwined. Together we drink from the earth and share the life-giving water and nutrients with each other and with all the other beings of the soil.
‘Come with me up through my trunk,’ I say. ‘Travel the routes that go all the way to the tips of my branches. It is winter now and I am resting and preparing for the spring. In the spring, I will put out my leaves and be touched by the fire of the sun. Then, I will take from the air what you breathe out to me and I will give to the air what you need from me. I will grow my tree-self and I will share with you the fruit, nuts, seeds and wood that I make.’
‘Gather together to celebrate us. Your religions show you how. From sunset on the 16th January to sunset on the 17th is the Jewish festival of Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for the Tree. It is one of the gifts of the Jewish religion to the world. This festival has a universal message which is important for all people.’
‘The message is about remembering – When you remember that you are not separate from me, then you will be back in the eternal time-space of the Garden of Eden, at home with the Tree of Life, where you humans know yourselves to be an integral part of the Web of Life.’
She comes back the next day, excited to tell me about her Tu B’Shevat celebration. She says, ‘There were six of us, three children, three women. We sat around a table laden with olives, apples, walnuts, hazelnuts, dried mango, satsumas and dates. We held up each type of fruit and nut, one by one, and said a blessing in Hebrew, “Blessed are You, Great Spirit, Source of all life, for creating the fruit of the trees.” When we ate with such focussed gratitude, each piece tasted especially delicious. Then we decorated cards with drawings and words of thanks and hung them on the trees in the front garden. It was a time of quiet joy.’
‘This is good,’ I say to her. ‘From now on whenever you eat the fruit that we give to you, I trust that you will continue to be mindful and thankful.’