Today (February 11, 2017) is Tu Bishvat, the Jewish ‘New Year for Trees’ (a kind of ‘Jewish Earth Day’). It is a time for reconnecting with nature, recognizing/appreciating the bounty of the Earth, to be thankful for all that sustains us, and to commit to protect the land.
Here in our Western Washington Cascadian valley, surrounded by immense forests, nature is happening everywhere, and the trees are dominant.
I am a transplant to the Pacific Northwest, not a native species, but there is a pastoral ‘hominess’ to these trees that penetrates natural and deep . . . perhaps it is aspects of their infinite shades of green, or the ghostly spirits of ancient arboreal inhabitants, or the ways in which winter’s low clouds swirl through their branches.
Or maybe it is simply their majestic silence.
Covering meadows, watersheds, rising hills and steep canyon sides, they provide an eco-habitat to all sorts of critters, on some nights sounding like an amusement park for the hunter owls, whose hoots and screeches echo through our valley.
Of course, there are humans here too . . . people who, while often awed and inspired by their splendor, see different things in the forest trees.
Trees can represent one thing to carpenters or loggers, and other things to campers and hikers. Real estate developers and builders might see magnificent home sites and structural materials, while young boys see climbing challenges.
Artists may seek to capture the hues of late afternoon’s splintered sunlight as it dances in an old-growth grove, while botanists/plant scientists see an immense range of organisms, objects of their passions and life’s work, thriving in ecological partnership.
In fact, the differing perceptions of what these trees are, or might be, are as varied as the likes, dislikes and personal histories of each and every creature that encounters them.
This mental diversity is in line with the teachings of Siddhartha, who taught that each of our perceptions is experienced via momentary, uniquely personal constructs. This includes our processing(s) of all that is seen, heard, tasted, smelled, felt or thought.
In other words, each split-second of our consciousness is a singularly individual event, occurring in an at-that-time, in-that-mind flash of interpretation and reaction.
This insight goes far beyond simply saying that everything is relative and then just leaving it at that . . . so, please consider:
If the Buddhist teachings are correct and we are building our own distinct constructs of reality during each of our moments, is it not possible to do so with ‘additives’ of clarity and wisdom . . . profound mind ingredients that would only contribute to the likelihood we would experience our constructs in a manner that is increasingly virtuous, wholesome and beneficially empowering?
And if this is true, why would anyone not strive to do so?
One need not be a philosopher or lama or yogi to do this.
Merely being an aware human is all one needs to get started.
In your travels today, remember it is Tu Bishvat, the day in which trees are appreciated for all they are and do for the inhabitants of our planet.
Strive to see and experience the trees, as you are able, in this way.
You might find that relating to them with gratitude is both contagious and lovely, and your attitude of appreciation will apply itself to many things beyond the trees.
With this, everything changes.
~One need not be Jewish, or Buddhist to engage in this, and neither grief or a broken heart, or fear, precludes you from doing it.