On the Gratitude of Trees: A Thanksgiving Meditation

Chinese Pistache 1TREES ARE EVERYTHING  I long to be:  deep, tall, gorgeous, hospitable, and unapologetically assertive as they stretch upward in hungry yearning for the sky.  Trees are like souls, fat souls, lively souls, and like us, they change.  They just can’t stay the same.  No one ever wrote in the school year book of a tree “Never change,” for that would be the silliest idea for a tree (and for people, too).  For trees are all about change and growth and loss and rebirth.  But they don’t mind—they really don’t.  In fact, trees are monuments to gratitude and worthy of recognition at Thanksgiving. That’s because trees are wise and grateful even in late autumn when their leaves fall off, yes, even while they are shivering and naked and vulnerable and quite lacking in leafy frills and fruit.  They may prefer to be  green or vermilion or yellow-gold or studded with ripe, red berries–who wouldn’t?–but still, they appreciate what the emptiness reveals. . . .  To continue reading this post, click here. 🙂

After the Terror, I Return to Etty Hillesum

thDear God, these are anxious times. Tonight for the first time I lay in the dark with burning eyes as scene after scene of human suffering passed before me.

—Etty Hillesum, July 1942

Etty Hillesum was a Dutch Jew, an intellectual and writer, who died in Auschwitz. All of the quotes below are taken from An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941-1943

Dear Etty,

I return to you, again and again, especially when humanity collapses into fear after the atrocities of terrorism.  Like now.  Paris. Lebanon. Syria. Tel Aviv.  The young faces of victims. Grief, fear, trembling, bleak presentiments. You, of all people, understand.

Mortal fear in every fibre. Complete collapse. Lack of self-confidence. Aversion. Panic.

—Etty Hillesum, November 10, 1941

During times like these, it is as if the very Soul of the world stretches out across the universe in cosmic mourning.  We share in the shock, the brutal searing of goodness; it feels like a frigid, howling wind that penetrates what few layers of protection we have managed to put on.

And finally: ought we not, from time to time, open ourselves up to cosmic sadness?

—Etty Hillesum, March 21, 1942


You know about “cosmic sadness,” don’t you?  You know intimately about Terror, dear Etty, and about the great fear that penetrates our souls in times like these. But you were, unlike me who sits in safety, at the very center of that Great Evil. And yet, against all odds, you blossomed. Auschwitz may have claimed your body, but nothing could touch the beauty of your soul as witnessed in your diaries—that intimate portrait of an expanding soul.  For that, I am grateful. You, like your young counterpart Anne Frank, who penned her own diary only a few blocks away from you in the beleaguered city of Amsterdam, are part of that Great Feeling that gives me faith in life again. And beauty, especially beauty. Like the birth of things, of children, plants, opening buds. . . .

To read the entire post  “After The Terror . . .” and see more photos of Etty Hillesum, click here.