The shy bud of an amalyllis papilio species unfolding

It’s Tu B’Shevat today in Israel and around the Jewish world. That means, today we are celebrating a holiday that commemorates the birthday of trees. Say what??? It’s a kind of ecological “holiday” that reminds us to notice the little things in nature. Little things, like the almond trees that are in bloom now in Israel…or are supposed to be in bloom during normal weather in the Middle East. How the trees in Israel and everywhere else stabilize the soil, provide shade, fuel, shelter, food, paper, become the building blocks for civilization.

I’m taking a little time today to remember the hot pink cyclamen I recall seeing in the spring of 1999 in the hills near Jerusalem—a native plant in that part of the world, and the pink cyclamen planted in a pot on my kitchen counter that is beginning to re-bloom.

I remember planting a tree on a hill near Tel Aviv. 60 women from Buffalo stood together on that windy hill not far from the Mediterranean on a Monday afternoon in December 2008 planting what looked like cypress or redwood trees in rocky soil, mounding the thin dirt around the little rootballs with our hands, trying to water the tiny plants so they wouldn’t dry out from the wind, which also carried our silent prayers that we might be able to come back again in 20 years to see tall, strong trees in a forest of our making.

Today, I’m taking the time to smell the beautiful paperwhite narcissi that are blooming right next to that cyclamen near the window. And the purple, pansy-faced miltonia orchid I bought at Wegman’s this January on a warm day and that I rushed home safely, and which surprisingly perfumes the whole house and hits my nose the second I step foot in the front door.

I’m spending a few minutes looking at the snowdrops opening in my front yard, hoping they will make it in a sudden cold snap, and knowing that even if they don’t, I’ll see them again next February. And looking at the bombastic red amaryllis and the sleek green striped papilio species amaryllis both in bloom on that same, now crowded kitchen counter.

And so today on Tu B’Shevat, I am remembering the exquisite beauty of nature in a faraway place and seeing it grow in my own front yard. What do you see around you? Pick up a log, walk around the corner, swim across the sea. Open your eyes and take in the simple beauty all around.

Red amaryllis buds about to burst into bloom