Tu BiShvat — New Year of Trees

Almond Trees, Israel
Kibbutz Netiv HaLamed-Heh, Israel, 1981

Since ancient times, Jews have celebrated the New Year of Trees on the 15th of the month of Shvat (February 10 at sundown in 2017). In Israel, the cold, rainy winter is coming to an end and flowering almond trees announce the arrival of spring.

cov_whatonearth_250pxToday, in Israel and the diaspora, TuBishvat has become the Jewish Earth Day and I’m pleased that Jewish educators are planning to include What On Earth Can We Do? in their Tu BiShvat and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) programming.

In honor of Tu BiShvat, I’ve compiled a selection of my photographs and drawings of trees.


Croton-on-Hudson, NY, 1975

sper_tree_infared_providence
Providence, RI, 1976

Tree, Lake Tahoe, NV, 1993
Lake Tahoe, NV, 1993

Tree, Zurich
Zurich, 2002

Red Rock Branch
Red Rock State Park, AZ, 2003

Acadia droplets on pink branch
Asticou Azalea Garden, Northeast Harbor, ME

Dreamy Branch
Istanbul, Turkey, 2005

Birch tree, Newton
Newton, MA, 2016

Birch Trees, Cabot Woods
Newton, MA, 2016

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My First YouTube Video — What On Earth Can We Do?

There have been days when I’ve come close to throwing my computer out the window. Like the day the mouse no longer moved the cursor. With a new lightweight laptop for travel and back-up, I wasn’t overly concerned. But when I turned on my back-up computer, its cursor didn’t move, either. Having been my own IT department for 26 years, I had a slew of solutions for earlier problems. None worked. So I brought both computers to the local repair shop. Of course, once there, they worked fine. Home again in my office, neither worked. It’s a good thing my blood pressure makes my doctor envious. After an hour wasted on the phone with tech support, I had a brilliant idea: I walked one computer to another room. Voilà! The cursor moved! The mouse had been trying to connect to both computers. Where were the days when mice didn’t have blue teeth? Give me back my Rapidograph, t-square, and triangle!

But, wait, isn’t that drop shadow cool? I change colors with a click and play with fonts. My design playground is huge. When I draw with a pencil on paper, I miss the “Undo” command. I can erase, but not bring back what I erased or save multiple versions. And, my digital photos aren’t dusty or scratched. Magic.

And the Internet. So much information waiting to be found. Online tutorials, forums for troubleshooting, and search engines make the impossible possible. At first, the Adobe Premiere Pro workspace made as much sense as the control board of a rocket ship. But, with tutorials, I found my way and created my first YouTube video for What On Earth Can We Do? Miraculous! And, before I forget everything, it’s time to make a video trailer for Follow the Yarn.

 

 

What On Earth Can We Do?

Does anyone know of a book good for 3-4 year olds about the concept of conservation/environmentalism?  I think our kids have not yet hit the developmental milestone in which they understand not wasting water when they play at the sink, etc, but we would love something to help us make it click.  We do compost and recycle with them and have even take them to the recycling center/dump once but thought a book might help them put it all together.

What On Earth Can We Do? coverThe above query was posted to Congregation Dorshei Tzedek’s listserv. I responded that I had just the book Phoebe was looking for. After many incarnations, beginning in 2008, I thought my book was finished. Ha! It took five months of rethinking, rewriting, restructuring, creating new and revised illustrations, and coming up with a new title to complete What On Earth Can We Do? I listened to the wise feedback of colleagues, friends, and relatives.

woe_prelim_papers

Six years ago, I was a member of an Eco-team. Working with the book, Low Carbon Diet: A 30 Day Program to Lose 5000 Pounds by David Gershon, we measured our carbon footprints and looked for ways to reduce our impact on Earth. Each week, one of us presented a relevant topic to the group. I brought a dummy of The Cool Earth Alphabet Book, as my book was then titled. It began with “animals” and ended with “zero footprints left behind,” a bit of a stretch for “Z,” as was “oXygen” for “X.”

The Cool Earth Alphabet Book dummy

Next up, The Cool Earth Book focused on problems, which was depressing, as a friend put it. So I moved on to what we can do, a more positive take. The actions in What On Earth Can We Do? are direct and easy to understand, enhanced by colorful graphics. For the child who wants to learn more, the end includes complex information broken down into simple explanations, not too much for four to eight-year-olds (or adults like me) to absorb.

Originally, my book had a Jewish slant, meant to follow The Kids’ Fun Book of Jewish Time (2006, Jewish Lights Publishing) replete with flaps, wheels, and other interactive elements.

Peah flaps and shmita wheelFaucet on-offThere was even a faucet that “turned” the water on and off. You could “open” the compost bin to see what was inside, watch the sapling “grow” into a tree, and spin the wind turbine. Unfortunately, the cost for interactive elements is crazy high, though understandable since real people are gluing the flaps onto the pages, etc.

Protecting Earth is a universal concern (or should be) so What On Earth Can We Do? is for everyone. Looking back on early versions, it’s hard for me to believe how many times I thought my book was finished. I have a hunch that it will never really be finished. Published, but not finished. Already, LED light bulbs are replacing compact florescent bulbs. Some towns have banned plastic bags and bottled water. Finished or not, our work is ongoing. For kids, and some families, my hope is that reading What On Earth Can We Do? will be the beginning.