In homeschooling this year, Jelly Bean and I are studying the holidays from around the world. I really enjoyed learning about the Jewish holiday Tu B'Shevat (celebrated on January 20th this year) and have been thinking about it for the past few days.
In celebrating the New Year of Trees, one can think about how a person was like a tree in the last year:
* Did I shelter those that live in my shade? Did I give others a good, safe, warm home?
* Did I strive to grow? Did I reach upwards instead of staying in the same place?
* Did I keep my roots firmly planted? Did I make firm resolves? Did I show by my example how to stay planted to the young trees beside me?
* Did I create sweet fruit? Or did I keep my branches bare? Did I share those fruits with others?
And speaking of fruit, some Jewish people partake in a Tu B'Shevat seder. During the seder, the first fruit that is eaten is one that has an inedible shell, like a walnut. The next fruit is one that has an inedible pit, like a peach. The next fruit is one that you eat the entire thing, like a grape. The next fruit is not one that is actually eaten but just inhaled, like almond extract or herbs, etc.
One can think of how this applies to ourselves - Do I live with a hard shell around me? Or do I appear to be open, but really, there is a hard pit inside, and so I won't let anyone in too deeply? Or I am trying to learn more about how to be a good person while still on Earth? Or am I striving to look towards things beyond?
I also love what Emerson said in Nature about the woods/trees:
"In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. . . . I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature."