by Nyanna Susan Tobin
The past few years, I have been inspired by Rabbi Katy to write my Elul reflections. This year I find that I am looking backward rather than forward into my future. As I age, memories seem more in focus than the daily details. I remember as a young woman, I wanted to be a forest ranger. I wanted to care for and protect trees with a passion. My parents and teachers advised me that girls could not be forest rangers. An older relative named Bud told me that Jews could not be forest rangers. My struggles with chemistry led me to believe that I was not smart enough to learn the science of trees. Case closed for fifty years.
I had no Idea that in 2020, I would be working with Joan Maluf and her Old Growth Forest Network, looking upward at majestic trunks, exploring for old trees.
The last Friday of May, 2020 was magical. I was walking in an old growth hemlock forest. Ziggy Dog and two forest folk, one a botanist, the other a climber/naturalist were my adventure companions. In March I had been recruited by the OGFN, Old Growth Forest Network, to find trees in Eastern Massachusetts that could be documented and possibly protected for family recreation.
For this first foray into the forest, we walked on an even, winding path from 10 am until 2 pm. The cool misty air was a relief from the early heat wave and drought. As Ziggy checked out every root and pine needle, his three two-legged friends gazed skyward. We were gifted with clear views of some of the tallest hemlocks in Eastern Massachusetts. Then we reached a clearing that showered us with soft, glowing sunlight. As I comprehended the far off tall trunks, they looked like a fleet of sailing ship masts. An old ballad came to mind. In my joy, I sang way out to the fleet:
The men in the forest, they once asked of me.
How many strawberries grow in the blue sea?
And I asked back of them with a tear in my eye.
How many dark ships in the forest?
I just had to sing out, and again, as the woods cradled my voice. Like an old lullaby, I remembered my fifty-year-old dream. This year at Elul, I wonder how long must I wait to step into another.
Nyanna Susan Tobin is an Organic Storyteller and Tree Advocate. She marches and works for Justice and a sustainable future from her home in Acton, MA.