Monday, November 21, 2011

Hands across a Century

A spontaneous act: a 17 month old reaches his little hand onto the lap of a 1oo year old woman and pulls on her fingers to wish her a Good Shabbos. And then, satisfied with the enthusiastic response he goes from person to person, across the women's section, at the end of the Shabbos service at the Assisted Living Center.
I watched with tears in my eyes as these elderly ladies, many dressed beautifully in their Shabbos finery, caught this little tiny hand as they greeted him with smiles, "Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos." While he doesn't speak yet, he certainly communicates, and has internalized the social interactions of eye contact, handshaking, the importance of touching and interpersonal connection. That these gestures were familiar was confirmed by his 4 year old brother, proudly remarking that 'this is the first time he has gone around to wish everybody a Good Shabbos!" Both little boys know that this is what is done at the end of the Shabbos davening; this is how we grow together, and become a community.

In the Men's section, the little toddler walked between the wheel chairs, waiting patiently until each man returned his handshake. Even though he uses just a few fingers, and alternates hands, the littlest member of this 'congregation/community' is a participant, a member of the tribe!
While I stood in the background, I knew I was the acknowledged (relatively young) grandmother- I have not felt this 'young'-- and I mean, really felt 'young' as I did while watching these beautiful elderly ladies in their 80's, 90's and 100's I found myself looking up to them as role models to me- yes I hope I look that good! I hope I have such a sense of style. I hope I can still daven and read or remember the prayers. And yet, when one of the women told me she has 25 great-grand children, I cringed when she told me she hardly sees any of them. I asked her to 'keep an eye on mine.' I hope I will always feel like I see my kids very frequently.

I don't live near my own grand children, although we are within driving distance- while I do see them often, and talk to them almost daily, I am grateful that they can be a source of nachas and joy to the many 'bubbies' and zaydes' they meet where they live.

It's a sort of "reverse green bubbie" phenomenon- reaching out wherever you are. Connecting across the generations is good for all of us at every age. It's life well lived, appreciated for what we have in common. Our humanity. Our capacity to reach out and connect, hands across the generations is a good prescription for a healthy heart.

So whether you are about to embark on a Thanksgiving celebration, and/or you are thinking about your Shabbos table- expand your age span - and love the ones you're with!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Many of us are familiar with the Pray, Eat, Pray, pattern of Jewish practice. Well, in this Harvest Season- which is also the spiritual season of birth and renewal- a New Year brings us many opportunities for reflection, renewal and redemption. Today is Hoshana Rabbah, bringing us to the end of Sukkos, and time to put away our Lulav and Estrog- Let's take action and put into practice our words to connect mind, body and spirit, to live in a way that our life is our thoughts, deeds and actions. We jsut read in Koheles, that there is a time to plant and a time to sow- well if you want a harvest for next Sukkos, get ready to plant now!
It is a time to begin the cycle of a new year- not only in our minds and hearts, but in the very real gardens and grounds that we live on.
So here it is - a call to action: GROW YOUR OWN (Aravos- willows.)
Keep your Aravos in water and they will sprout roots. Plant the rooted willows into the ground, some sun, shade is good.
Become part of the pray, plant and grow cycle yourself.
The 'aravos' willows will grow here in the Northest, and almost anywhere- we live in the Philadelphia area and the Aravos I planted almost 20 years ago are now big bushes, whose branches are shared each year with many friends and neighbors and visiting family. In years past we have backed up several institutions even Penn Hillel! Our Aravos harvest seems to grow as it is used, the more you cut, the more it grows!
Each year my husband (the green zayda) cuts back the growth on Tammuz 17- (which as you may recall, is a Fast day) Once again breaking with the "pray eat pray" syndrome, it proves that even on days when you are fasting and don't eat, well, you can still foster new growth in the garden, as you cut, pray, cut!
If you are reading this after Sukkos, and or you don't have any Aravos this year to root- stop by some time and we will share our Aravos with you. The good thing about Aravos, just like 'bubbies' if they are 'green' they are still alive, ready and willing to grow.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

(not) my daughter's wedding

One of the great joys in life is being happy for other people's happiness. Think about it. Even if math was not your forte, imagine the multiplier effect here. If you limit your joy to yourself, or your immediate family, well, no matter how big that family is, just imagine if you enlarge that circle of people, the potential for more joy is exponential.

A green bubbie
is someone who is not afraid or shy about branching out and enlarging that caring circle of family.

When I was a young mother, I remember being admonished, along with my whole generation, "Don't be your child's friend."- and "Don't be "friends with your children's friends." But that is very different from inter-generational friendship. When boundaries and roles are clear, we can relate not as peers, but as supportive, caring, 'other' people, rendering another definition for the word 'relative'

We just attended the wedding of one of my daughter's friends. Since they were in the second grade, she has always called me "Mrs. Feldman" We always liked "to talk" to de-brief, and to consider options. My joy at her wedding was deep- just as our talks were always, well, "deep."

I have always felt that parent-hood is sort of a team sport- we are all in this together, and we each have a 'role' or position to play, supporting all of our kids. My older son was just lamenting how much he misses, and wants to get together with, the father of his best friend. They too used to have special talks. When I mentioned my son's sentiments to that particular father, tears welled up in his eyes as he told me the feeling was mutual.

It's special to have 'inter-generational' friends. When boundaries are clear, generations distinct, the roles we are able to play in each others lives, can enhance the relationships in our own families, just as they strengthen the growth of all involved.

Years ago, when I wrote my dissertation, I wrote about the friendship networks that are formed when parents of young children meet each other as their children start preschool, or day care. I was referring to those strong friendships amongst the parents which would grow as we attended and cheered at all those games, celebrated birthdays and holidays, and fretted over each parental decision - from when to start drinking from a cup, when to let a child ride around the block on a bike, to choosing schools to celebrating life cycle milestones as our children grew up.

What I did not know then, was that just as we were forming friendship networks with the other parents, we were also planting strong roots of trust and becoming the community pillars on which we would be able support each other's children, and give them more than any of us could have provided alone.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Back from The Farm

Kayam Farm- the scene of "Planting Seeds: The First Jewish Early Childhood Conference.
It was better than imagined. It was the participants willingness to "dig deeply" on all fronts that mattered. People came from as far as Seattle,North Carolina, Texas, Boston and Worcester, Florida and New York as well as from nearby Virgina, Pennsylvania,New Jersey and of course Baltimore. There were nature specialists, ece directors, teachers, a rabbi and a great mix of ages and persuasions. There were the gardeners and the wannabes and together we weeded, worked on the farm, engaged with the farm animals at a distance of our choice and got to see red wiggler worms up close and personal. There were sessions on nutrition and healthy eating, and great meals for our own sustenance.
There was an ongoing discussion of what makes the garden 'Jewish' and how to bring the very young into this endeavor.
As the 'green bubbie' I gave the opening keynote, trying my best to weave together Richard Louv's wonderful book, "The Last Child in the Woods" with Jewish Identity and Inspiration from the Garden- For those of you not there, I used my actual weaving expertise to invite those present to image the 'warp' of the loom as Torah and the weft as the experiences in the natural world. The warp of the loom is the backbone and strength of the fabric..Sometimes that warp is invisible, and sometimes given the design of the pattern it becomes obvious and beautifully woven together- that's what create the design of the fabric. So too, if the foundation of what we do in the garden comes from our growing and continual study of what the Torah teaches us, that is the foundation of what we teach, of who we are, and what we do we the children. The stronger the warp, the stronger the fabric we create.
And just in case anyone thinks young children are too young,not so. There is no better example that the song, "Yom Rishon Avodah, Yom Sheni Avodah....Yom Shabbat Menucha" (with the hand motions of course) that demonstrates that even the youngest of children can participate in our Torah based tradition- 6 days of work, and on Shabbat we rest"
just like it says in the Torah!
So, as we prepare for Shabbos, let's try to think of all the work we've done all week- in and out of the garden- how we finish it, and rest on the coming Shabbat.
My hope is that this was only the first Jewish Early Childhood Gardening Conference- There is no way I can convey the extraordinary interplay of the parallel sessions of the Ashville JCCs' Early Childhood Cur brilliantly conveyed and shared by LAEL and JILL along with the workshops given by the incredibly knowledgeable staff of Kayam Farm. They live the life they are aspiring to and it is inspiring to work and learn along side of them
I look forward to the next gathering and learning and bringing our field to new heights,
as together we dig deeply into our Jewish Tradition and into the earth from which G-d created us all.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

when you're 64

Will you still need me when I'm 64? Today is actually the 64th birthday of 'the green zaydee.' I realized today how much the operative word in the Beatles'song was always the "I" as in "when I am 64"
It's one thing to imagine oneself growing older- it always seems so far away. It is quite another thing to think of family and friends growing older. As a boomer, I was always struck by how many people were my age, no matter how old I was. I remember when I thought everybody was a 'pre-teen' Of course the advertising business has reinforced my
ego=centrism at every stage. I have always told my children that I have never had a new idea or interest, or reached a new milestone in what I thought of as my own development, without having some version of my newest stage or interest appear as a cover story in the NYTimes magazine.
Life catches up to the lyrics of the songs we sang before we were 3o. Now that we are in cutting edge Boomer age range, it's good to reflect and re-group.
YES I thank G-d I still love the 'green zayda' in my life, and that our life is so much more than I could have imagined at 30. I do have to say that the stanza about weeding the garden and doing the chores- who could ask for more??? That still resonates.
It is not always so simple to have a life filled with the simple things. Knowing what the basics are, and being grateful for what we do have is a blessing everyday.
'64' doesn't seem bad,it's much better than I thought it could be (no, I am not 64)- it's slightly over half the way I see things. And the best is being with, and around people of all ages- not every one is 64!
It's not about letting yourself 'go' as we get older, it's more about letting yourself "become" not only what we imagined, but so much more.

Happy Birthday, to all the green bubbies and zaydees!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Seeing Stars

I recently returned from the West Coast. Of course it is not uncommon for people to go to the LA area to see the homes of stars, or to hope to catch a glimpse of a star trying to hide behind those big sunglasses. I really don't think I could recognize a Hollywood star if I bumped into one who was wearing a large print name tag.
But for me, I had an incredible thrill- seeing timeless stars. I looked UP. and what did I see? I SAW MARS no kidding. There it was in the dark night sky- just where it is supposed to be! As well as the smaller flashing star right next to it. And when I turned around and looked up again- there is was- THE BIG DIPPER! Unlike many things in life that appear smaller as we grow older or taller- the stars in the sky retain their enormity, while we shrink in humility at their enormity.

Truth be told, there was a telescope. But, it was so complicated, I couldn't figure out how to use it. My host had used it the night before so I was told where in the sky to look. We turned out all the lights in this home in the Valley, and against this beautiful night sky, the stars and planets appeared just as clearly albeit a bit smaller than when viewed through the fancy scope.
But it just proves, that if you really want to "see stars " turn out the lights- don't fear the dark, just look up and be amazed.
You can only imagine the stories I told my grandchildren when I returned...we've been looking up ever since.

Monday, May 9, 2011

If a tree can grow in Brooklyn

If a tree could grow in Brooklyn, certainly a garden could grow in a New York school yard.
Returning to the kindergarden, the Green Bubbie was thrilled to see the progress of the seeds she had planted with the children. They were eager and curious how a garden could grow in their playground.
We built a "raised bed" a 3x3 foot wooden ' box' used lanscape fabric on the bottom and filled it with gardening soil. We planted the peas and zuchinni which we had grown from seeds and some additional lettuce and flower seedings. The children loved learning how to hoe, to shovel, to dig an adequate hole and of course, watering the garden.
For over 2 hours over 30 children were transformed into urban gardeners!
and now, a vegetable garden grows on a city play ground!
The miracle of growth can happen anywhere you are willing to take root.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Green is still a color

Today I received a letter in the mail addressed to "Green Bubbie(TM)" You know, even a great idea is only an idea. Even if you write about it, you need to see if it resonates with others outside of your own head. Do other people ever know what you are imagining? As a 'visionary' thinker, I can tell you that there is nothing more exciting then to see/know that your idea is understood by others, and used by them.
So, imagine my delight when during my recent visit to my grand daughter's kindergarten, I was asked by the teacher what I would like the children to call me. Finally, my chance to try this 'green bubbie' idea out on a group of five year olds. So, I said, they can call me "Green Bubbie" - I paused and whispered to the teacher that for the moment, I would skip my usual monologue about energy-efficient grand parenting. (see initial green bubbie blog posts)
About a moment later the teacher returned and told me that a number of children commented that I didn't look green, and that I didn't appear to be wearing anything green either. There is nothing like the reality focus of young children. So, I proceeded to explain to them that, in addition to being a color, 'green' is also the color of vegetable greens, and gardens, and that a
"green bubbie" is 'someone who helps children plant gardens.'
We did several activities involving different seeds, gardening catalogs, and each child had an opportunity to plant their own chosen seed in an organic, biodegradable planter with their own scoop of organic planting soil. I don't know who had the most fun. We even discussed the life cycle of beans- and while they were admittedly more familiar with beans that go into making 'cholent' for Shabbos, they were wide eyed at the stages where beans can be eaten off the 'pole' or bush. But, it was the idea of the 'zipper' that opens the pea pod that captured the most interest. I taught them 'Five little peas in a pea-pod pressed" and they sang and popped up at just the right moment.
The next day I spoke with the teacher to follow up. She said they took my suggestion and bought fresh peas and shelled them for a snack. While they loved them, my grand daughter assured the children that fresh picked peas from your own garden will be even better. The teacher told me that the class wrote me a thank you note- and that there was a big discussion as to whether to write, "Dear Green Bubbie" or to 'The Green Bubbie" whatever.... When the letter arrived in today's mail, I got all of the validation I could ever want from the seed of a germinating idea-I have no doubt that "the Green Bubbie(TM)" will be a welcome addition gardens and young children wherever they grow.
So, become a Follower or contact me so I can add your name to the 'green bubbies' and join me in planting for the future, with our current crop of kids!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

life and death and gardening

When I think of life and death I sometimes imagine opposites, or different poles on a spectrum. How different are life and death. Of life, we are experts and of death we know nothing. But that isn't true at all. In fact, for me the more I encounter death in its many forms, the more I appreciate life, all life.
So it is with great humility that I look closely at my own garden, not only for what I can learn about sustainable agriculture, but also for the lessons in life, and the sustainability of Family.
All winter I saw the brown, worn leaves of the Helebors in my garden. I would walk past and think, "Should I cut them off?" "How far down should I cut?" "Perhaps I should just wait until Spring and leave them in place." Days and months pass and snow covers the dead leaves. Yet, knowing as I do that the Helebors will be among the first flowers to bloom,I decide to wait.
I've been through the cycle, I know how and when to anticipate the new growth, yet I chose not to cut back the leaves over the winter.
I recently looked at the place along pathway from our front door that I walk each day and saw the Helebor in bloom, right in with the dry, brown leaves. It was a moment, cherished. Seeing literally within the old leaves the new beautiful blooms. Camera. Pencils. Paints. Pause to appreciate.
Tomorrow I will visit my grand daughter's kindergarten to introduce them to "healthy gardens."
I will be bringing seedlings of lettuces and herbs and seeds to grow squash and cucumbers for planting after we build a raised bed. I will ask them what they know about how vegetables and flowers grow.
I will ask my grand daughter to tell them how we planted the peas in the garden last week. I will ask them if they know where, and how we get the seeds. Then I will review with them what they learned about the third day of Creation- the Biblical phrase, "Let the earth sprout forth sprouting plants yielding seeds." The Ramban says that the phrase 'let the earth' is used because it means that God created the earth with the potential to grow and nourish the seeds. That is a good lesson for why we need to pay attention to the soil we use. We will discuss composting on another day. It is not to hard to stay focused on all the actual gardening tasks.

Yet, for me, it is my heart that learns of life and death. It is knowing that my grand daughter is named for my own mother, z"l that brings the tears that water that garden within me that I can only call my life force, my neshama. Not a day has gone by in over twenty years that I have not felt my mother's love, presence and guidance. While my tears are personal, my passion is for nurturing all of G-d's children, and working daily to seed His garden with love, Emunah (belief), and Betachon (trust).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Irish Green and Gardening

Strong forces are bombarding the mind and the material, natural world. As I write this, I am astounded by the force of the Earth Quake in Japan and the resultant tsunami washing up on the West Coast. Energy which shifts the earth and challenges us to get our minds around the magnitude of this event just as we watch the waters and waves hit and spread to encircle the islands from all sides.
I am living happily in the month of Adar, but I am viscerally and spiritually connected to the natural world and all of humanity. Never privy to G-d's ultimate plan, I continue to strengthen my faith and join forces with the best of human responses to this devastation.
Ah, the challenge to stay positive and focus on what is in front of me! And so I say, Thank G-d for March 17 and the Irish and the secular calendars which mark this day. While I will may not be wearing green, I will be at my 'green-est' as I get out into the garden and down on my knees to start planting!
March 17 in my area of North America, is the time to plant peas, mustards and some lettuces.
Therefore, today serves as a reminder that if you have not already purchased your seeds- do it ASAP. Of course, you could buy them locally as well.
Planting peas and lettuces with children is a very engaging. Even planting the peas for them or virtually should be considered. We like to start our grandchildren out at about 18 months. If a child can stand, I consider them to be my partners in the planting process. Do not confuse 'planting with children' with 'supervising' children. I consider the "planting of the peas" a great example of the social construction of knowledge and experience. We do it together. We discuss it while it is happening. the peas, unlike lettuce seeds are large (they are the size of a pea!) We take turns, either I poke my finger in the ground, and the child drops in the pea, or the child pokes and I drop in the pea. Older children in the neighborhood are able to do both processes. Planting with children is a shared experience. I always use a personal pronoun when I refer to our gardens. If a child lives far from us, I might say, "I planted peas today in your garden" After the children plant, I continually give them updates on 'their' peas even on the phone. Of course the most fun is picking the pods when they are ready. And what to do with grandchildren far away? Well, when the pods are ready to be picked, they don't wait for the next holiday visit. So, last year, I pulled the entire root system up, untied the trellised peas and stuff the whole thing in a bag and
I took Amtrak up hte east coast so the children could 'experience' pulling the pods off of the stalks and take the peas out of the pods themselves. Perfect for little hands and great hearts of all ages.
So, thank you to the Irish who keep me focuses on just the right time to turn green and get into my garden.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Green Bubbie: Be Happy It's Adar

The Green Bubbie: Be Happy It's Adar: "The Talmud states, 'When Adar enters, simcha (joy) increases.' This year is a leap year in the Jewish Calendar, and therefore an additional..."

Be Happy It's Adar

The Talmud states, "When Adar enters, simcha (joy) increases." This year is a leap year in the Jewish Calendar, and therefore an additional month is added to the calendar. That additional month is always the month of Adar.
This year I spent the first month of Adar contemplating what it might mean for a month "To enter"
This is just the kind of question that revs up my imagination. How can time enter? What is it entering? How is this increased simcha experienced or perceived? Like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, is the increased 'simcha' in the universe really increasing, or does it only increase if more people are aware of the 'time' change?
Just like living with the reality of 'Shabbos' as a time frame with behavior parameters, I have been consciously thinking of how I can experience increased 'simcha' in Adar .
It's a choice. Spiritual development is not a treadmill with an ever increasing incline. More effort, more gain, more sweat, more pain.What a delight to learn that there is a spiritual path that trains us for increased simcha- it takes just as much effort but the rewards are tangible.
I think it is Reb Nachman who says, "Mitzvah gedolia l'hiot b'simcha" (It is a great mitzvah to be
'b'simcha' to be happy)
Life teaches us that being happy can be one of the hardest of the mitzvot. As I think about 'simcha' I am grateful for all that I have, that I am, that I share. In essence, I think true 'simcha' is about life, and our gratitude for every moment. Our challenge is to live this way and teach our children that true simcha is not about what we 'have' it is about the joy of life, and how we live, and what we can become when we strive to live life as the best person we can be andwhen we live in peace with each other.
Be Happy, It's Adar! (tell everyone you know)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

27 minutes

We all say we don't have enough time. But, what do we do with the time we have? And how often do we get to appreciate a window in time.
I have come to appreciate that 27 minutes can make all the difference in the world- not every day, but certainly may be all it takes to deepen relationships, to appreciate and to show 'care' and love.
Irish Steel Cut Oatmeal takes 30 minutes to make. I always try to make it when my kids and grandchildren are in town for a Sunday or vacation. They refer to it as my "special oatmeal' They know it takes times to make it.
Recently, I saw the same oatmeal in a box which said "Ready in 5 Minutes" I called my son and suggested that he buy it so I cook make it for his kids during my visit. By the time I arrived in Boston, he had found that the same brand was now offering "Ready in 3 Minutes" for the oatmeal.
So, I made it for his kids for the few days of my visit- they loved it, and it was great before they left for school.
Then I spent a weekend in the Poconos with my daughter and her extended family. 17 of us in all.
I was in charge of breakfast. In addition to the requisitee bagels, I announced I was making oatmeal and that it would take 30 minutes to make- but it would be worth it. I had one person request it. I made over 2 cups enough for at least 8 adults and the little kids. During the 30 minutes it took to stir, we talked. We set out bowls of nuts, of raisins, craisins, and brown sugar. I told them about the 'magic' of hot oatmeal- how it can make brown sugar 'disappear.' We gathered closer around the table- informed that there weren't enough spoons, I assured them they could eat oatmeal with a fork. By then we realized that there were not enough bowls for the growing number of people who wanted to try the oatmeal. We 're-purposed' the bowls that were holding the nuts and raisins, and by then the sliced fruit.
By the time the oatmeal was first ready, word was spreading that it didn't taste like regular "instant" oatmeal. We ha shared the time of preparation, of anticipation, and of place. As everyone gathered closer to the table, almost everyone was now 'partaking' of the shared breakfast experience. Loving, and building relationships, like old fashioned oatmeal, take time. They are not "instant"

Later, I asked a 5 year old what she liked best about the oatmeal, she answered, "We didn't rush"
27 minutes is more than the difference between "ready in 3 Minutes" and the moments that last a life time.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tonight's the Night

Calling All Green Bubbies- (and zaydees) Everywhere:

Wherever you are- call the children (it doesn't really matter whose children they are- the farther the better!
Ask them to go out and look up in the sky. Find out if they see what you see- What shape is the moon that they see?

Is it the same as yours? Do you see the same moon?

Remember- if this is the Hebrew month of Shevat, and the Moon is FULL- it can only mean one thing:
Tu BShevat HeGiah - Hag HaElanot! Tu Shevat has arrived- the holiday of the trees- and you can see them by the light of the moon!
so wherever you are, LOOK UP - and be grateful!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The almond, the moon, and the cupcake tree.

The almond, the moon, and the cupcake tree. An almond, a moon, and a cupcake tree. Almonds, the moon, my cupcake tree, and yours.

It was the afternoon of the evening of January 12th, 2011, also known as Erev Rosh Chodesh Shevat and I went to visit my grandchildren.
I have always loved the holiday of Tu B'Shevat- simply named, the 15th of the (Hebrew) month of Shevat. When I was a child I loved the 'treats' we were given in Hebrew School- especially the bokser that I couldn't even bite. I did love trying to make music with it. I was very skeptical of a land called Israel which produced this inedible, strange 'bokser' was it a seed? a fruit? Way before there was 'fruit leather' there was something called 'bokser' (carob)
This harsh and ugly fruit certainly had an effect on me. I can't explain why, but I loved the physical connection to a foreign Eretz Yisroel. Years later, I was struck by how the hard inedible 'tree candy' of my childhood had become a brown paper tree covered with super soft cotton balls, dipped into pink paint and pasted together in classrooms across North America! The meaning and magic of Tu B'Shevat had escaped generations!
Now the TuB'Shevat Seder has begun to rival the Passover Seder- becoming the quintessential holiday of the environmental movement. Creativity, Kabalah, and agricultural enthusiasts of all ages have joined forces to connect so many different people, on so many different levels to this one day on the Jewish Calendar, Tu B'Shevat- the 15th day of the month of Shevat, arriving this Thursday, January 20.

But let me return to the almond, the moon and the cupcake tree. Think of them as three essential ingredients for the development of the 'spiritual imagination' - just add a Y (why?) and you have the beginning of a new (or re-newed) 'holistic' Tu B'Shevat! It's physical- you can taste it, you can feel it, see it. It's intellectual- you can contemplate the changes in the moon, you can see by the light of the full moon and learn the ins and outs of every fruit and kind of tree. And, it's good for the soul- the Rabbis say that, "Whoever blesses the new moon, brings the Shechina (the Divine Presence) into their lives."

Let's take it slow.
the almond + "Y" ? it's a nut! it's a flavor! it's a tree! it's a blossom! It is way more than a pink painted ball of cotton! When I was a Jerusalem Fellow, we lived in Israel for over a year. I came with my paints. I was on a mission to see and understand the mystery of the "Shekadia" the almond tree- the musical star of the TuB'Shevat.

We lived in the neighborhood of Har Nof (mountain view) which borders on the Jerusalem forest. I walked the forest frequently and traveled the roads of Israel for months from August (Av) until February- Shevat. It seemed like a miracle- as most physical changes in Israel do.
Overnight there were 'puffs' of pinkness- appearing like dots over barren hills in the distance.
Sure enough, on the very day of the 15th of Shevat, on my walk in the Jerusalem forest, there it was up close: the Shekadiah itself! Up close and personal, the almond tree and me. I saw the blossoms, with delicate pink tinged white petals all along the twigs, where soon the almonds would begin to form. Dangling from a few of the branches were dark brown hard shells- the remnants of the almonds from the previous season. It looked like a dogwood tree. I used my watercolors to translate my "Shekadiah' onto paper. That was many years ago. The painting now hangs on the wall in the home of my oldest grandson. So, when I mentioned the word, "almond" he said, "We have a story about that on our wall." Paintings and stories... they
intertwine- both beg for interpretation, their imagery setting the foundations for shared imagination, for memory, and for great debates.

almonds+ moon+ Why? When we bake 'almond moon cookies" we can see them rise and change shape and 'grow' just like the moon itself! - And of course, why talk when we can eat?

A child is never too young to see and connect with the moon. Is there anyone in our universe who has not read, "Good Night Moon?" A true test of green 'bubbie-ness' is the urge to take everyone out to see the moon and try to touch it. It is never too cold to look for the moon. And the really great thing about the month of Shevat is how early in the evening the moon appears in the dark sky.

Hint: the 15th of the Hebrew months is always the Full Moon. So, if you want to
watch the moon "grow" or "change" you can begin on any night. And then go look at the moon the next night, and the next, and the night after that. Unless it is cloudy, you will always see changes. If you are a parent or a green bubbie and you live far apart from your 'grand children' you can compare your observations of the moon by phone or by skype.

We looked for the moon on Rosh Chodesh- we saw a very tiny slice of moon! We made 'almond moon cookies' - tiny crescent moon shapes just like the new moon. We talked. As we rolled and shaped the dough, we made round flat moons, sphere moons, half moons, and even cinnamon covered moons because the 5 yr old said that he had heard the moon is sometimes red!

When you think of the moon, you may think 'blue' 'harvest' or 'red' Whether your moon is full or new, start baking and sharing almond "moon" cookies for Tu B'Shevat. No matter how old or young the people in your life are, make, bake, or suggest 'almond moon cookies' to accompany a real "tea party" (you know, it is make-believe, with little chairs and imaginary tea)

And now for the 'cup cake tree.' Don't forget about the 'Y" as in, "Why a cup cake tree?" (I actually encountered several young adults who were stumped trying to figure out what a cup cake tree is!) A cup cake tree is something I just thought of, I made it up. It can be whatever you want it to me- but "Why?"

At a certain stage of life we begin to talk about how quickly the years go by. TuB'Shevat is known as the "New Year of the Trees" At each passing year those blossoms seem to appear more often, or sooner. With each new "blossoming" we see on deeper levels, and may begin to appreciate the inter connection of all of God's Creation.

For young children, it's birthdays that have meaning, and birthdays mean cupcakes! So, if the trees are having a birthday, let's make some 'cup cakes' for the party.
I am not going to tell you what my 'cup cake tree' will look like- just try to imagine, as I try to imagine yours! Ask the people in your life how they might make a cup cake tree- it's a great way get to TuB'Shevat- and let us see those creations!

So as the years go by, stop and appreciate the 'renewal' that comes with each new blossom. Give the kids in your life " big bite" of Tradition. Savor the taste of the almonds. Get to know the trees in your life. Let their renewal, renew you.

And give the little ones the ingredients to develop their own 'religious imagination.'
Maybe someday they will ponder that "God made the trees, and God made me"
But don't tell them.
Even if it takes a lifetime to understand God's constant and continual presence, we get a hint with each new year, and with every day, and with every night, in between.

In light of this past week's events, I was reminded of the words of the Ohr HaChaim, that in our lives, we should be, "a magnet for good." Paraphrasing him in a letter to her past students, Rebbitzen Tziporrah Heller wrote, and I now paraphrase her, that if we were to treat people as the best we know they are, people will, in turn, strive to be that best version of themselves.Similarly, were we to treat people judgmentally, they would respond and act in that diminished version of themselves.
As I deputize myself as 'a green bubbie' I encourage myself to become a "magnet for good" as well. I am reminded to reach out and embrace and enlarge my circle. It isn't easy to grow spiritually. In fact, I have learned that if we were to imagine ourselves as spiritual swimmers- constantly moving ourselves to stay afloat, we would appreciate that should we stop that growth for just a moment we might drown. As spiritual beings, if we are not moving forward, we move back. Sounds harsh, but true.
In the garden, if our plants are not constantly nourished, we see them die back. With proper water, or additional light, we may witness their revival. The more we tune into the physical world, the more insightful I think we become of our spiritual lives. The ability to look at events in our world, and to ask, what I can I learn from this, what can I change in my own l life to heal, to contribute, to re-think how our lives, when touched, can grow.
By becomming a "magnet for good" I think we/I can strengthen the infrastructure of community, the many communities of which we are members and the ones we can create.

One small gesture that I think the 'green bubbies' of the world could take on is the 'active listening' to the younger generation(s) of parents,teachers,people of all ages. The seemingly simple act of asking, of listening, which of course involves making oneself available- even with an extra minute in line at the grocery store- taking the time to ask, "How are your children/students/parents/ doing?" So many people are so busy and afraid to ask, afraid to get involved. I think the willingness to ask, to listen, to pay attention to the lives of others, creates the opportunity for connection, caring and support.
At least to be able to say either: "That's sounds pretty normal to me. " or, "I can see why you're concerned."
Now as I write this, I am reminded of the negative imagery of the 'busybody' or the 'yenta' - while neither are role models for me, I think our generation of boomers- with our advanced degrees, psychological awareness, and interdenominational and professional networked connections can form a new model of engagement, based on our individual and collective experiences. We can reinforce the personal and social connective tissue of our communities. We can call on our vast musical and cinematic collective memories. We can reference our memory of the desire to make the world a better place. And we can do it wherever we are.
Perhaps we can update a gesture from a previous difficult time in America- let's see if we can transform, "Buddy, can you spare a dime?" to "Bubby, can you spare an ear?"

Monday, January 3, 2011

the personal seed

This is my not only my first posting of the new year, it is also my first post in almost a year. You see, the more I thought about 'the green bubbie' the more I liked the idea- so I decided to stop everything I was doing, and BECOME a green bubbie myself! I see 3 parts of the 'green bubbie'
First and foremost, a green bubbie is an energy efficient model of grand parenting- you don't need to have your own children- use local sprouts and shower them with love and attention! While I do have my own grand children, living in other states, I have become a green bubbie to children and adults alike. When I was younger, I was fascinated by very young children- now I find that so many adults seem very young- and the 30 and 40 somethings seem very open to having a green bubbie in their lives!

2. the 'green bubbie' is an identity, and by extension, a special relationship, which you can extend, to choose to confer by choice: For instance, when asked what I do, I began to introduce myself as," I am a green bubbie" which sparked great conversation. When I recognized a kindred spirit, I found myself fully confident in offering, "I would like to be your green bubbie." Of course anyone who I would identify as a kindred spirit jumped at the opportunity. I admit I am somewhat surprised at how easily and with great enthusiasm, these people refer to me as 'green bubbie' in email salutations, phone messages,and in actual real time conversations!
For me it's a bit like being 'fairy godmother/mentor/volunteer life coach/supportive guide" on the frontier of life. An added perk is that I don't have to pay tuition for any of these new people in my life,
3. A green bubbie is a Jewish Environmentalist, of a certain age. My definition of this age is we remember when the world looked like 'paradise, before they put up a parking lot.'

now for the personal SEED This is the time of year I love best as a gardener. The arrival of the Seed Catalogs. Every green bubbie- or wannabe- take note: Sign up the children in your life for their own personal seed catalog. They are free, and they arrive in the mail with the designated names. These full color magazines can be the beginning of countless conversations, activities, projects and plans. Whether you are a green bubbie to a child, a family, or to younger adults- sign them up for their own seed catalog and follow up with gardening tips and suggestions and become a conduit for even greater garden wisdom.
So just as a seed is the beginning of life- think about the relationships you want to nurture, to start or to season, with greetings and deepening connections. Branch out. Let people know you are thinking of them and if they don't garden, you can do, as I do, and invite them to come and work in the garden of your life. It makes for a richer life than I ever imagined.