Category Archives: nature metaphors

Happy Earth Day: Go get hugged!

‘They’ say we need 8 hugs a day to be at our best.

A celebration of earth's bounty: 'Spice and Tease' at NYC's Chelsea Market

A celebration of earth’s bounty: ‘Spice and Tease’ at NYC’s Chelsea Market

‘They’ say each person needs 56 trees’ oxygen to offset her personal production of carbon dioxide.

How many hugs then do trees need – or deserve – for taking care of us each and every day?

Before you read further:  go hug.  Hug a person and/or a tree.

Not aware of Earth Day?  It’s probably because it’s not a Hallmark holiday.  That’s a good thing –  (wasted) paper would exhaust the very resources to celebrate:  trees and water.

But the downside:  it’s not well celebrated – and our survival depends on it.  Literally.

Wikipedia  ‘facts’:  Earth Day (the first in 1970) and  International Mother Earth Day (by the United Nations in 2009) is observed annually on April 22  in support for environmental protection.   Around the planet, people are listening to music, learning about eco-friendly technology, recycling electronics, clothes, bottles and cans, and participating in cleanups.

I’ve done beach clean-ups, including in the Hurricane Sandy devastated Rockaway’s.  One long-time Rockaway resident observed:  ‘lots of people come here to clean up on one day.  Then, nothing.  Nobody comes to clean when the beaches get crowded – and dirtier.’

It’s true of course.

We put a lot of momentum into one day, and then go about our business.

That one day is our consolation, and a commemorative prize.

Aveda's annual water campaign provides awareness and clean drinking water!

Aveda’s annual water campaign provides awareness and clean drinking water!

But I wonder: why do the beaches need to be ‘picked up’ so often?   We’ve picked up cigarette butts, toys, bottles, cans, socks, towels, styrofoam cups, those big plastic cups, straws, and suntan lotion bottles. In April or May. Long before beach season begins.

People must believe it’s okay to bury their garbage along with their heads or feet in the sand….  Or that small stuff, like thousands of cigarette butts won’t make a difference because they are small.

Btw, cigarette butts don’t degrade.

Saturday, I volunteered with Riverkeeper, at NYC’s Hudson River Greenway.  The bright sunny day masked the freezing wind, keeping people moving along the beautiful green space that parallels the High Line and the Hudson River.  This event brought several environmental groups together to share information.

Solar One:  those little black squares are solar panels and the little colored things are spinning around
Solar One: those little black squares are solar panels and the little colored things are spinning around

(Interestingly, I was told, environmental groups compete for attention and funding, often not communicating and sharing thoughts and action.)

These groups do amazing things - not many people because it was FREEZING! Panelists including:  Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper, Grow NYC and Hudson River Greenway
These groups do amazing things – not many people because it was FREEZING! Panelists including: Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper, Grow NYC and Hudson River Greenway

The passing public collected ‘swag‘:  reusable bags from Magnolia Bakery, Aveeno face cream, and pamphlets.  People love free stuff.

Swag (bags from Magnolia Bakery) roadkill?
Swag (bags from Magnolia Bakery) roadkill?

I asked one event participant why Earth Day wasn’t a widely celebrated ‘event’.

‘Exhaustion from being over publicized’

Is this really what we want to hear?
Is this really what we want to hear?

I wonder if it’s become like the boy calling ‘wolf’:  the environmentalist calling ‘global warming, global devastation’ one time too many.


And we deal best with catastrophes when they strike –  all of us trying to stay afloat between devastating events from super storms to job loss.  Exhausting!

It’s almost understandable that clean air, water, healthy food, the diverse ecosystems that provides these things are exhausting to think about. Much less do anything about it.  I’ve often seen bottles in cans in Whole Foods garbage cans when a recycling bin is steps aways (and yes, I take them out and settle them in their proper receptacle!)

But here’s the most interesting thing:  Earth Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day are days apart.  


Maybe.  But these two days are joined in a tight hug.

This WWII poster says it all!
This WWII poster says it all!

Last year I wrote about the Bielski Partisans (movie: Defiance) WWII survival in the forests.

Wars, hate crimes, genocides ultimately are over resources.  Natural resources that come from the Earth.

People are killed over land, water, diamonds. Food.  Not to mention Nike’s.

So my thoughts on this beautiful Earth Day are:  Stand-up!

Hug a tree.  Hug a person.

Fight Genocide – fight for a healthy planet.

You can prevent war- reduce your consumption of ‘stuff’, turn off the water, drive less, recycle.

less is more earth day

Let’s focus on quality – not quantity.  Let’s care enough about ourselves and future generations to leave them a real inheritance.

Stand up by donating time, money, and energy.  Talk about and share these organizations:


Grow NYC


JNF (starting planting trees in Israel in 1901!)

Sierra Club

US Holocaust Museum

A Meaningful World (anti-Genocide)

CelebrateTrees: Tu B’shvat, the Jewish Arbor Day!

‘It is because of you we are here.‘  Lilka Bielski, Tuvia Bielski’s widow said as she looked up at the trees (in a video) in the Belarus forest where the Bielski partisans (best known from the movie ‘Defiance’)  survived the Holocaust.

Please go here to read more about amazing Partisans:

Please go here to read more about amazing Partisans:

These same trees that saved partisans during the Holocaust, are the ‘green lungs’ that maintain life.  Celebrating these – and all – trees, and the renewal and rebirth they represent – is what Tu B’Shvat is all about.

Forests provide safety

Forests provide safety

This holiday is sometimes called the Jewish Arbor Day, or what might be called the Jewish Earth Day.   Clueless, I’ve thought of this as the ‘dried fruit holiday’ since the kosher supermarkets in my neighborhood offer a smorgasbord of dried fruits which I happen to love.

Literally, Tu B’Shvat, a minor holiday, means the 15th of the Jewish month of Shevat.

Tu B'shvat delights

Tu B’shvat delights

What I love more, is understanding what this holiday is all about:  celebrating nature and our relationship to the earth and as a reminder to serve and protect trees.  In Israel it’s all about ecological awareness and planting trees.

I’ve learned this for the first time thanks to  Rabbi David Ingbor’s sermon one Friday night at the Romemu Synagogue.   Environmentalist or not, this is a time of physical and spiritual renewal.  A second Rosh Hashonah.   Check out Romemu’s site and download the sermon:

And listen to the music on “A Taste of  Romemu:

It’s so easy to take trees for granted, especially this time of year as they stand naked and silent, seemingly devoid of color and purpose.

'naked trees' in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, preparing for spring

‘naked trees’ in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, preparing for spring

Tu B’Shvat is the perfect time to start celebrating nature as we (humans and nature alike) enter this time of fertility after winter’s dormancy.  And don’t trees deserve a much-needed time of rest, of fallow, after all they do for us?

Those seeds strewn in the fall, and through Rosh Hashonah intentions?  They’ve had time to scatter and settle, hopefully to miraculously take root and prepare to bloom when conditions are right.

Tu B’Shvat is a reminder that life stirs before we see it:  just as our dreams don’t come true one sun-filled morning, but rather build over the course of mulching and mulling experiences and actions.

While this may be a minor holiday, trees serve a major purpose in Judaism and Israel, which I think is pretty amazing:

Jews were ‘told’ to plant trees when they ‘returned’ to Israel.

All the more interesting since there were virtually no trees there.  So now, when Israel boasts having more trees now than 100 years ago, it is easy to understand how this is true.

In 1901, early settlers in Palestine began planting trees as part of the Jewish National Fund (JNF).   Now, there are over 240 million trees in Israel!  In fact, one of the most popular ways to commemorate and celebrate an event or person is by planting trees in someone’s name through JNF.

(FYI, about planting trees…  James Michner, in his fictional book “The Source”.   writes about American Jews coming to visit ‘their’ trees, only to find they aren’t memorialized that way!)

Good thing there are so many trees since that proverbial peace symbol of an olive branch, well, we need lots more olive branches  from lots more olive trees…

While some of those who have planted trees were Partisans, and the children of Partisans, I think in this day and age we are all Partisans of a sort in need of safety.

We all need a safe place to hide – from the ravages of climate change.

10,000 trees were killed, uprooted, in New York alone during Sandy.  Ironic – the trees that will save us from climate disasters are destroyed during those same disasters.

I want the world to be a safe place, full of safe hiding places, preferably for play, not war.  So while I won’t literally be planting trees this weekend, I’ve already ‘asked’ JNF to plant a few to honor a niece.

planting tree

Who knew Tu B’Shvat is in fact a major holiday in intent?  A holiday of action and change!

Here’s to celebrating renewal and rebirth as we all start to thaw from our winter fallow.  And a reminder to go hug (and plant) a tree in thanks for the safety she provides.

Debora’s Naked Identity: Rated ‘G’

Keep your pants on:  there is no nudity in this post!

This says it all. Thanks to

Would you veer from success?   Change an aspect of yourself, one that others label as your identity, an identity that earns you money and fame?

I guess it's up to each of us to make use of all the colors in our palettes. Hard to do in a world that worships black

Can an artist’s expression journey seamlessly through mediums touching all the senses?  Can art successfully fossilized on penthouse walls evolve and breathe new life into distant space?

If an artist’s identity

is  her mode of expression in

paint AND lush felt AND thoughtful painted word,

how will others define her artistic identity?

And THE biggest question of all:

 WHY veer from success???

I say if you want to know what an artist would do, ask the artist herself.  Debora personifies Rumi’s quote:  ‘Either appear as you be or be as you appear’ and veering is part of her identity!  Tall, slender, with  hair radiating exuberance we chatted over Turkish coffee.

Fascinated, my imagination turned Debora’s words to rich images as she shared her body of work, describing colorful canvas, lush felt

Like 'A Sweeter Stride' on Facebook to hasten its publication! (And nibble on excerpts!)

roses, installations of sound and word, and her most recent offering: a memoir.  ‘A Sweeter Stride’ unveils her captivating journey through ( occasional) colliding worlds of art and love in NYC over the last two decades and promises to be a fascinating ride.

Like it on Facebook:  ‘A Sweeter Stride’ to hasten its pilgrimage to print.

Our discussion turned to her evolving

I think it's important to remember that art is participatory. Each of us creates beauty in what we see, make, and do.

artistic identity and colleagues’ fear and trepidation.  Others question how she will be ‘found’ post-art form migration.

Debora’s artistic metamorphosis is identity evolution.  New creative expression in naturally selected new niches.

My conversational journey exploring Jewish Identity unveiled identity evolution as  ‘Naked Identity’.  Surely there is more to that than meets the eye.

Can ‘Naked Identity’ be shielded from prying eyes by donning the latest fad

Something to keep in mind as we go spring clothes shopping.Image from

and like the Emperor recreating himself with a new suit of clothes?

Or like Debora (and the owners of stories heard on my journey – see previous posts), fling off the trappings of others’ perceptions and flaunt that nakedness.

The Emperor wasn’t the only one who discovered, less is more when it comes to  ‘Naked Identity’.  Naked, a mid-winter tree stripped and bare, shows

'Naked Identity': Birch trees in winter. Without adornment of rich green leaves, fragrant flowers or succulent fruit, deciduous trees bare their souls so to speak in the heart of winter, taking care of themselves, not caring to entertain or enthrall or support others. Naked, the heart, soul and true identity of a tree is the reason for each new spring creation and display of beauty, taken down each winter. (thanks Wikipedia for the picture)

the tree’s true essence:  thin, gangly  limbs awkwardly – no ridiculously – jutting out from its scarred,  bulbous trunk.

Against a grey winter sky, urging the donning of warm woolens, the tree bares its branches taunting us to love it or leave it.

Trees remind us ‘Naked Identity’ is devoid of lush green finery  and shots of color and is  about the tree doing for, and being about, the tree.

Naked, the tree is still herself – her true self,  just without care of what others think and need.  Naked, she is able to build internal resources, building strength to branch out in new directions, seeking new opportunities (for sunlight) while being firmly rooted in where and who she is (physically and metaphorically).

True beauty is found in ‘Naked Identity’.

 Deborah’s art, like the tree, branches out, seeking glimmers of opportunity,  while firmly  rooted to her artistic core. Beauty drawn from internal resources.

‘Hidden’ Eastern European Jews, shared their identity evolution to Naked Identity is rooted in Judaism.  (see previous posts about my conversational journey – identity5772)

We are all artists, of a sort.  Our challenge is to get naked and bare our soul to uncover our core identity.   And as we know, getting naked is the easy part. 

Looking inward, nourishing our roots,  silent and uncaring of expectations and needs of others, we can discover our gangly, bulbous perfections before going out on a limb to sell new creations.    As the days get longer, my dreams ache to branch out, seeking new opportunities, hoping my roots are strong and deep enough.

  What feeds the root of your creations?

 As spring beckons, where will you branch out to uncover and celebrate your ‘Naked Identity?

Best wishes for a lushful spring!

Safe Havens: Partisan Forests

The safety of forests! Over 20,000 Jewish and 30,000 Russian partisans found forests to offer refuge and lauch resistance during WWII

Traveling from Berlin to Warsaw and beyond, passing acre after acre of Birch tree forests, my imagination morphed  forests into  havens  for hiding partisans.  These 

Furst is a great historical spy novelist providing insight and intrigue into WWII. Try 'The Polish Officer'

visual images leapt from the page (Alan Furst) and the screen (Defiance) through my eyes to outside my train window.  

Eastern European forests offered a safe haven for Jews, Russians, Gypsies, political dissidents and others both fleeing and fighting the Nazi’s.  These forest bound partisan resistance fighters conducted guerilla warfare, sabotage, and, military intelligence.    Imagining the forest as homey and hospitable in the middle of winter is a stretch, yet forests concealed family camps living in dugouts complete with craftsmen and schools.

Belorussia, location of Bielski camp. While most partisans were in Eastern European, others were in France and Belgium

The most famous,  the Bielski brothers camp in Belorussia numbered about 1,200 in 1944 and is the basis for the movie Defiance.

From the movie Defiance: Bielski brothers fleeing into the woods after their parents were killed

Of course it’s more complicated.  Jews sometimes joined larger (more powerful?) Russian partisan groups who were often anti-Semitic.

Russians air-dropped supplies to sympathetic partisans at the end of WWII.  Russian partisans turned  Anti-Soviet and resisted Soviet control from 1944 – 1953.

Faye Schulman, photographer and partisan chronicled her life in the woods in ‘Pictures of Resistance’.  The link:

Theo, my Berlin Free Walking Tour guide ( explained

German organization includes  numbering their trees:  4,100.   We count what’s important.  Money and barrels of oil are counted like partisans must have counted food.

In 2012, danger lurks outside ALL windows.

Birch forest view outside my train window

 Carbon dioxide levels have declared war with our climate – and therefore us. (Or is it the other way around?)  It’s a matter of time before we must all seek oxygen rich hiding places.  A matter of time before we all become partisans.  As modern-day partisans, it behooves us to know  the number of trees on the planet, and how many we need to be safe.

29.6%  of Earth is tree covered.  Once, it was almost 100%.  Between 1990 – 2000, 2% of trees were lost.

Mr. Smarty Pants:  96 trees/person to offset our carbon balance

Each acre of forest provides enough oxygen for 18 people.  As you can imagine, it’s difficult to count the number of trees or even acres of tress on the planet. 

But I’m sure you  also know people far outnumber trees on the planet.  We  can still breathe a sigh of relief, confident we will be suitably oxygenated. But can we hide from the facts?

Environmentalists may seem to be crying ‘wolf’ about global warming.  But most European Jews didn’t believe the  warnings about the Nazi’s either. 

How much longer will forests provide safety?  A haven to hide?  Without  trees, where will our species go for safety?

Resources.  Wars and genocides begin over a scarcity of resources.  (Blood) diamonds, oil, and land have been washed with green(backs) and red. 

2% of forests have been lost in the last 10 years and will never be recovered. What if these trees were your source for oxygen? Would you allow these trees to be clearcut? Burned down for burgers (grazing)?

Wants feed needs feed power and lead to starvation.  Trees are harvested, burned to make way for more lucrative ventures like grazing land.  Land that will lead to starvation.  Of oxygen.  Because what resources REALLY are needed for life?  Water.  Oxygen. 

Without trees where will we hide?  Where will we go to be safe?

Is the human race out to destroy itself?                                                          (BBC quote from Auschwitz  2009)story.   

Organizations providing safety through tree planting: