The sun was shining today and the air was so fresh, I could not resist the temptation to sit outside and look at the peaceful view, see the trees move slightly in the gentle breeze, and listen to the chatter of the birds. The black cat, Black Jack, was rubbing again at my husband’s legs, and then deigned me worthy as well of his attention. He is actually a feral cat, born in our yard, who left for a couple of years and suddenly reappeared to claim his place and our affection. He knows he is welcome here, even though his jaw is distorted and one fang is always sticking out when he smiles at you.
This is one of my favorite times of the year, the time set in the Jewish calendar for the New Year of the trees. Since the beginning of the 20th century, it became a tradition to plant trees on this day, the 15th day of the month of Shvat. Trees and planting evoke so many thoughts and memories in me that it is impossible to stop and select one to share. The poem that talks about a person being a tree in the field resonates in me to the point of wanting to feel my roots deep in one place, planted, belonging. Yet I keep wandering and moving countless times. Perhaps there are trees with air roots, or another way to establish roots?
Many years ago, a client of mine was struggling with being able to believe in her ability to heal and create a healthier life for herself. Since her family owned a tree nursery, I had an inspiration and asked her “how is it possible to transplant a mature tree and make sure it survives and flourishes?” Without hesitation she described the process: First you have to prepare the place to which you want to transplant the tree. You dig a big enough and deep enough hole so that much of the roots will fit in. You need to place some manure and compost and earth at the bottom. Then you have to dig wide enough around the tree in order not to disturb too many roots. The older the tree, the more space around it must be dug up, so some of its environment stays with it. Then you need to cut some of the roots. You can not move the tree without cutting some connections away. You can not do it alone, you need help. If it is too big, there is a danger that it will be damaged. So, you may need help to transport it, bring it to the new place you prepared, plant it, fill earth around it, and tie it to a support for the first little while until it is stable and growing again. It needs nurturing with water, fertilizing, and care until the roots are again established and it is stable. We both started laughing, since we realized how perfect this metaphor was for the work that needs to be done for healing and getting established in a new phase of your life.
For some planting a tree is not a metaphor, it is a statement of belonging and making a living in spite of difficult circumstances. I was sad to see in today’s paper that hundreds of olive trees were uprooted because they were planted by the “wrong” people on land that was declared state land. The sad irony is that 15-year-old olive-bearing trees were uprooted a few days before the holiday of tree planting! Tu Bishvat (the 15th of Shvat) reminds us of the commandment in the bible to plant fruit trees when we come into the land. There is also a strict prohibition against destroying fruit trees, and in many places in the world you need special permission to uproot or cut down a tree even in your own back yard, unless it is a danger to passersby or is diseased. Uprooting trees is like uprooting people. I, for one, would be devastated by such a violent act. Tomorrow new trees will be planted but not by the people whose trees were uprooted, since they are persona non grata on that part of the land. Even if they plant somewhere else, it will take at least 10 years for the olives to produce enough fruit for sustaining a family. Will we never learn that violence only begets violence rather than peaceful coexistence?
My personal tree was uprooted when it was a small sapling, and luckily it managed to establish strong roots and grow. Here and there some branches were damaged, and sometimes it needed support to lean on. Yet it bore one fruit. When it was time again to change places, I could not bear to uproot it, and found another solution. It is called grafting. You take a branch from the existing tree and insert it into a strong native tree, make sure the two are well tied together, and hope for the best. I saw my sister grafting our Avocado tree this way, and it bore two types of fruit! So, I took a strong branch from my tree, and grafted it into a native Canadian tree, and it took. We grew together and bore 2 different lovely fruits. Both trees continued to flourish, each establishing roots in different lands. But when the tree which was left behind was calling, all the branches of the grafted tree were intertwined, so again we took a branch and grafted it into the original tree from which the first branch was taken. Both trees now feel at home, with roots in their own land, both combine branches and did not have to be uprooted and planted somewhere else. We planted other trees in both places to keep them company, and visit both so that they will be taken care of. Perhaps when we plant some more trees tomorrow, we will only care for them and make sure they are nourished and loved rather than uprooted.
Black Jack was walking on the path under the lemon tree which is perfuming the air, blooming, and bearing fruit at the same time.
The sapling avocado tree that we planted is struggling to establish itself despite the cold wind. Hopefully we will both be here in 10 years to taste its fruit.