Do you ever feel like hibernating in the wintertime?
I certainly do. Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated in the morning and after I make my bed, I wonder how long it will be until I can crawl back in under the covers.
This is certainly the case now that the Omicron variant is disrupting our lives, and some of us have been forced back into isolation.
The desire to hibernate is connected to the idea of ‘wintering,’ coined by Katherine May in her book, Wintering: the Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. To have a “wintering attitude” helps us understand why sometimes we want to slow our pace, become more attuned to the rhythms and needs of our bodies, and retreat. Animals plan and prepare for the winter season. Humans do a little bit less so. (Check out Krista Tippett’s interview on the topic here.)
There is an expectation in our culture that we are available and can be ‘on’ around the clock. It’s hard for us to acknowledge that resting (and even hibernating) is a natural seasonal act.
On the Jewish calendar, there’s a nuance to wintering that helps us become more accepting of ourselves and our kids, and more hopeful about who we and they are meant to become.
Tu B’Shevat is the “new year for the trees” and it’s coming up on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. It starts at sundown on January 16th and ends at nightfall the next day.
The holiday is usually celebrated by eating dried fruits (connected to the land of Israel) and planting trees. This year is Shmitah, one in which the land lays fallow, so while we aren’t planting this year, there are other ways to celebrate. One way is to adopt a “Tu B’Shevat” mindset.
There are powerful ideas connected to Tu B’Shevat that can give us sorely needed perspective on two levels. (We talked about one of these in a newsletter a few weeks ago). The first is that we have to keep faith in the process of growth that is taking place in our children and in ourselves, even if it feels imperceptible, the way that a newly planted seed is not seen beneath the mud, rain and darkness of the earth below our feet.
Rashi, a medieval Jewish commentator reminds us that Tu’ B’Shevat comes at a time when the sap is rising in the trees. The trees around you stand naked, leafless and yet deep within the trunk of the tree there is sap, or new life, that is rising.
The process of regeneration is well underway. It’s so countercultural to celebrate a process over an obvious success like a milestone, acing a test, celebrating a big birthday or anniversary. Tu B’Shevat reminds us to bring our attention and our faith in the process even when we don’t yet see any of its fruits.
The second idea that grounds a Tu B’Shevat mindset is that when change is underfoot, so much patience is required. Tu B’Shevat celebrates seeds, the smallest and seemingly most insignificant thing. The gap between the seed and it blooming into its full potential (say, a fruit tree), requires an enormous amount of patience on our part. And the daily work of caring, tending, watering, and nourishing the seeds to make sure they have the right conditions to grow takes time and attention. It doesn’t happen all at once.
When we have a “Tu B’Shevat” mindset while raising a family we can be reminded to celebrate the daily acts of cultivating the fertile soil for our children to grow and take root. And while we can never control how their seeds, or their potential will flourish and what fruits will be born of them, we can work (thanklessly sometimes) to create the right conditions.
So this year be inspired by Tu B’Shevat.
Take a broader view of one of the processes that your kids are engaged in. Instead of looking at the problems – the crises, interventions, or milestones they should be meeting – look at them as a process, like a seed, yearning to grow.
A Tu B’Shevat mindset helps remind us to celebrate change, growth and to have the patience and faith that all our work as parents and gardeners of our children’s lives will bear beautiful fruit.