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During the past two COVID pandemic years, I spent a lot of time on Facebook, posting updates for Mishkon and checking on my personal friends’ posts as well as sharing my own. The posts ran the gamut from serious to silly and, at times, informative, I hope. It was a means to stay in touch, to be politically challenged, spiritually uplifted, intellectually inspired, and entertained.

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Bonsai Forest photograph by Kay Collins (Photo posted on the Facebook group site Trees Among Us)

One of the public groups that I am a member of is Trees Among Us. It is a site for tree huggers, of which I am proud to be one. It was started this year by a friend and colleague, Susan Gee Rumsey.

Following the extreme political turmoil and immense COVID health scares of 2020 and 2021, when Susan invited me to join Trees Among Us, I jumped at the chance. It seemed to me that the group existed only to show and share beautiful photos and other depictions of trees, which are among the oldest beings on Earth, in their finery, distress, geographical diversity, and magnificence.  The photos, illustrations, and sculptures illuminate growth, decay, death, and regrowth, life cycles that we can all relate to, in nature, in our individual lives, and particularly in our Mishkon congregation.

There is a well-known expression You can’t see the forest for the trees.  The reason I am drawn to the Bonsai Forest photo is that I can focus on the individual tree/s AND the forest at the same time. That is the beauty of bonsai.

And perhaps that is the beauty of Mishkon. We are a small enough congregation that we know individuals, their life stories, and how we all fit together. That could be lost in a larger congregation.

The Miriam Webster Dictionary says bonsai are “dwarfed by a system of pruning roots and branches and training branches by tying them with wire. …. The inspiration for bonsai is found in nature, in trees that grow in harsh, rocky places. Bonsai may live for a century or more and can be handed down from one generation to another.”

During the past few years, I have felt as if we as individuals and Mishkon as an entity have collectively been hanging on by our fingernails:

  • To be and stay healthy and, if ill, to do everything we can to regain and maintain our health and that of our loved ones
  • To keep our Mishkon home functioning … with limited financial support, without in-person classes and services until the last few months
  • With an entire shakeup of our staff
  • With our programs, preschool, and religious school operating with fewer students 
  • With our historic building in need of repair

We could have gotten bogged down in focusing on these individual issues and not had a strong sense of what came before and our positive expectations for the future of our shul and our members.

I like to think that Mishkon can grow and prosper like the bonsai found in nature and/or expertly pruned.  We too have grown in harsh circumstances (what could be worse than a pandemic?) and come out with our feet on the ground and our heads held high. Let 2022 be a new beginning for us. Like the bonsai, Mishkon has prospered for more than a century, and we WILL pass it down from one generation to another. The trees AND the forest.

Mon, June 5 2023 16 Sivan 5783