13.5" x 23.5"
I hike three times a week in a small woods near my home. This has become a peaceful, meditative, spiritual and creative exercise which has in turn informed my art practice. This summer, I read The Hidden Life of Trees which gave scientific data about the culture and nature of the trees that I have come to recognize in the forest. The book inspired me to do a series which incidentally tied deeply to Judaic tenets.
In nature, scientists have given the term mother trees for trees that have a nutritive role for young seedlings. The larger trees can draw up more water from deeper resources and allocate it to the seedlings with shallow roots. They also shelter the young trees and force their trunks to thicken. Jewish mothers also have great nutritive value and force our skins to thicken with their advice and help.
Trees have a period of “sleep” from which they return yearly. In the summer, the trees fuel themselves with energy from the sun (turning it into sugar and other compounds) which they can hold in reserve. They also fill up with the water from the ground. Once the hard frost sets in, the tree goes into a dormant phase where everything slows down. The tree shuts down the energy to the leaves so they yellow and drop. Chemicals prevent the tree cells from dividing thus saving energy and causing a stall in the growth of the tree. In spring, the chlorophyll is sent back to the buds and the tree reemerges with green shoots and leaves. In the daily Jewish morning prayer we thank God for returning us to the earth for another day after a night of sleep. This prayer stemmed from the fear that we would never wake from slumber.
The root system of a tree is of utmost importance as their very survival depends on it. They absorb all nutrition through the roots and send out new shoots to boost nutrition. Trees communicate within their species and even to other species by sending chemical, hormonal and slow pulsing electrical signals to each other through fungal networks which thrive on the roots of trees. Deep roots for Jews is the very basis of our identity. Our generational pride ties us to ancestors from thousands of years ago. Our religion has been built through generations of believers each adding layers of meaning to our rich tradition.
Shevet Achim/ Community
Trees thrive better as a community. They exchange nutrients through their roots and will share sunlight not encroaching one on another. By working together these tree communities have an advantage of storing greater quantities of water and create an ecosystem that can better moderate heat and cold. The Jews have held together through the centuries and survived by aiding one another in times of trouble. Our deeply held belief system, love for one another and our dedication to help each other in the community has kept the Jewish people alive.