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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Battle of the Trees as appeared in the Binah

I’m the type of person who loves nature. Just the thought of traveling to the mountains, walking through the forest and communing with the trees brings out the positive endorphins and makes me feel calm and serene. I grew up in the big city (yes, San Francisco really is a city), surrounded by concrete, with postage- stamp size backyards boasting a few shrubs and a couple of blades of grass.

Every once in a while, my mother would decide to grow some flowers in a window box, but they never lasted long.  Even the geraniums, which we were told were had a weed-like tenacity and could survive anything, including my mother’s care, withered away before their time. We lived with plastic flowers, rather than the real ones, which is probably one of the reasons I crave nature.

As a teenager, I would walk the ten long city blocks to Golden Gate Park to explore its hidden lakes and sprawling meadows, and (oh, how I hate clichés, but this one describes it perfectly) taking the time to smell the flowers.

My husband, however, grew up in the suburbs, in a house (yes, a real house, not an apartment) with a large front and back yard, replete with squirrels, racoons and other interesting critters. Lots of trees, plenty of nature, which is probably why (you guessed it) as a teen he would closet himself in the library, and viewed parks or nature walks as a complete waste of time. After all, ןf you can read about it in a book, or see it in a picture, why spend time actually going there to experience it?

Many years ago, one of our children drove my husband and I down to Massada. The view from the top of the mountain is so spectacular that there are no words in the English language, or any other language, that can begin to describe it. The sheer magnificence takes your breath away.  I stood there, the wind blowing in my face, unable to speak (which is extremely unusual for me) when my husband commented, “Why can’t they just put all this in a museum, or even better, a book, so we wouldn’t have to waste our time coming up here?”

Our children are more or less divided on this issue. Some see anything having to do with the great outdoors as a complete waste of time. Others look for every opportunity to get out of the city and enjoy the beauty of nature. No one really comprehends the other mindset, but we’ve agreed to disagree on this.

All this brings us to the issue of trees. As mentioned, I love looking at trees, my husband doesn’t, and my kids are divided on the issue. All that’s fine, except when it comes to the one particular tree that is right under our living room window. It’s an olive tree, and my husband is highly allergic to olive tree pollen, as are several of our children.

And just to make life interesting, every apartment that we ever lived in had an olive tree in close proximity. Hashem really does have a way of testing us!

And all that brings us to the battle of the open window. Half of our family loves open windows. Air. Sun. A light breeze. The other half doesn’t. And when that air is full of pollen, it’s more than a matter of dislike. It’s a matter of being able to breathe. Which means that as soon as spring has sprung, the battle’s begun. Between giggles and exaggerated sighs of exasperation, the windows would either be flung open or banged close. Throughout the month of Nissan, half the family would be sneezing from the pollen, while the other half would be coughing from the lack of ventilation as they cleaned for Pesach.

They say that there is a resolution for every conflict (actually I just made that up, but it sounds true, doesn’t it?). So although the olive tree is still spreading its pollen beneath our living room window, thanks to the wonders of air conditioning, the  window is no longer a point of dissention.

I’m trying to think of a moral to this story. Something related to Tu BiShvat and its being the Rosh Hashanah for the trees.  But all I can think of is how much fun we had battling over the open/closed window, and that sometimes disagreements can make one closer.

It’s all about how you go about doing it.

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