TREES IN THE WIND

The winds blew all night. I could hear them through the slightly open window, sounding like a spaceship landing. This morning they’re blowing that much harder, predicted to become 50 mph gusts.

I took Aussie into the woods because they provide some shelter from those cold blasts, only to be surrounded by spruce and pine creaking and bending. Heavy branches crashed on the ground from a long way up. Often, I’d look up at one particular tree that seemed to tilt more precipitously than others and wonder what I’d do if it fell. I’d have an instant to move, or not.

The leaves haven’t come out yet, making the trees more naked but also lighter, better able to bow and bend, minimizing their chances of dropping. But sometimes, they do drop, often taking down utility lines in the process.

And what happens to me when I’m buffeted by thoughts and emotions? Do I also bend this way and that, or do I drop to the ground?

This morning, I remembered that in a long-time-ago NYC writing group, we talked about something explosive in the world. Was it Kosovo? Bosnia? Hindu-Muslim massacres in India? I can’t remember now, only that a friend of mine who was there declared that Buddhists don’t murder, massacre, and generally cause widespread carnage. They don’t do those things.

A political science professor, also in the group, said: “Yes, they do.” He evoked the warring armies of monks in Tibetan monasteries many years ago, and the Japanese kamikaze pilots crashing purposely into ships during World War II, some of whom came from Zen temples and monasteries.

My friend got upset. How dare this man attack Buddhists? He couldn’t hear it, and repeated once again: Buddhists don’t do such things.

Since then, of course, there have been the monks of Myanmar who advocated and demonstrated in favor of kicking out the Muslim Rohingya.

I remembered that exchange this morning after reading a collection of various papers about Gaza. It’s not the Buddhist side of me that’s shaken, it’s the Jewish side. As a Jew who grew up in an orthodox Jewish home and went for years to Jewish schools studying the Torah, prophets, and ethics, I am revolted and horrified by what I hear and read. I gave up the practice of Judaism long ago, and still this feeling sometimes overwhelms me. Other people do this and have done this, including Americans of which I am one, but this? Since when do Jews do this? Did the events of October 7 justify this?

I feel like the trees, buffeted hard by winds great and small, threatening to fall over. Are their roots strong enough to keep them grounded? If they wear too many leaves, they become too heavy and fall to the ground.

How do I make myself lighter on my feet? What do I need to let go of? How am I nailed down to belief systems and doctrines handed down over generations? If I let go of those, will anything keep me grounded?

Is there anything to depend on?

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