Maybe Only God Can Make a Tree- But We Need to Plant Them by Jane Tawel




Maybe Only God Can Make a Tree, But it is Up To Us To Plant Them

by Jane Tawel

July 5, 2019


Yes. Now. This. Trees. Please, Trees. I am a life-long lover of trees and Ents. If you can, please support a tree’s life and growth today, somewhere, somehow. The earth needs trees as direly as Middle-earth needed the Ents.  The following is a poem by Robert Frost, another lover of trees and the earth,  that seems ever more poignant today than when he wrote it.


“The Sound of Trees”

by Robert Frost
I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.


This is a picture of one of the last remaining camphor trees on my street in my little town.  The rest were all murdered years ago so that people could build houses and sidewalks and not have their plumbing messed up by long, deep roots.  This stately, kingly 100-plus- year- old tree  messes up our house’s plumbing and our sidewalks. But I have told my family, if any one cuts down this leafy tree, I will, as the old joke used to go, “make like a tree myself and leave”. This is the tree that I “wish to bear forever close to my dwelling place”.



I am a pessimist by nature and yet hope springs eternal within my chosen worldview. At the end of this post is an optimistic article on the very real possibility of planting trees in order to save our planet.  It will not involve reducing food-supply acreage nor will in impact urban areas, although I hope people will make changes on both of those fronts.  As a literary call to arms for our planet, I will use an other’s words, rather than my own. From J.R.R. Tolkien:

“The world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air.” Words from that sage Ent, Treebeard and  J.R.R. Tolkien


I believe that we absolutely must start feeling both much more guilt, personally and collectively, and much more hope. We also must learn whom and what to love.  We must know what love means when it comes to our planet.  When we love our children, we care for them. The earth and all her wonders, are first of all a Creator’s children and by reason as well as command,  the earth and her wonders are human beings’ adopted children. And we have treated those earthly children of Nature, too much like pesky mosquitoes or weeds we don’t find attractive, or, maybe we are treating Nature’s progeny, more like we have the children of those pesky, asylum seekers at our borders. The Earth Herself seems to me to be crying out for asylum. Will we continue to destroy and deny Her her rightful place or will we become once more the caretakers and saviors we humans were created to be on our planet?  I have one suggestion if you only have time to do one more thing on your to-do list today.  Go outside somewhere, and look at something that man did not make or tamper with or create. And just for a moment, let the beauty of a dandelion, or a sparrow, or an apple, or a wriggly worm, or a star, or a crinkled, brown leaf touch you. And whenever possible, find a tree and let its beauty, smite your heart. And feel guilty for a moment at how we have forsaken our planet, and then let hope return.


“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor, high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while.  The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him”.  J.R.R. Tolkien


So, let’s all start somewhere today, shall we? Here are some things I try and need to try to do much better at.


Remember, the number one thing we can do is to reduce — reduce our use and need for more, more, more, more.  Don’t buy anything in or of plastic whenever possible. Ask to be sent less paper and when necessary, reuse the backs of paper products for making grocery lists. Use as little water as possible. Eat in and eat everything on the plate. Walk when possible, take more time, slow down, breathe, and look around at the trees.


Then we need to re-use. Use again, and again, again.  Wash out that baggie, and use it again. Better- don’t buy baggies (see above on reducing).  Buy a food compost-er. Shop less, get outside more and …. look at the trees.


And finally, recycle. Give things away to people who need them more. Make sure that cities and towns recycle goods appropriately. Recycle in-house, by using jars for vases, old sheets for rags, holey towels for doggie beds, and any other creative thing that people suggest for recycling ideas.  There are great sources in magazines, books and newspapers. And read them online because of course in that way you will help…….. save a tree.


I get discouraged, until I think of Frodo and my  own favorite LotR character, Sam Gamgee.  I have never seen the movies and hope I never will (my kids think I’m weird) but I have read the trilogy at least six and half times in my lifetime.  I feel like reading it again just talking about it.   But though I am easily disheartened,  I try to reduce my discouragement, reuse the hopes of history, and recycle the wisdom of all great saviors, both fictional and real. And I start again. Because as Tolkien says through the character of the disciple Samwise, “It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish”.


So, while often my head wants to explode and I think, what’s the point?! I humble myself and do my small bit for the environment. On those walks I take when I see all the ugly pieces of trash people throw onto sidewalks and streets to litter my neighborhood, instead of feeling helpless to make a difference, I set myself the goal to pick up as many pieces of other people’s garbage as I can carry and give them decent burials in the closest trashcan. I hope that if someone sees me, they might pick up as many pieces of trash as they can — or maybe just not throw their trash in the first place, onto our beautiful planet. Each time I stoop down into the gutter to pick up someone’s tossed straw or plastic lid, I reward myself with the dreamy notion that I have saved a dolphin today, and that makes me carry on. I try not to grimace, although sometimes I admit I do. I smile and hum that old hymn, “This is My Father’s World”, and I hope to honor The Planetary Parent by caring for Her Creation. Sometimes, I will hum some remembered lines from the childhood of my heart: “Inchworm, Inchworm, measuring the marigolds. You and your arithmetic will probably go far. Inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds. Seems to me you’d stop and see how beautiful, they are.” So, I pick up something ugly, and I look around, like the proverbial reformed inchworm I long to be, and I admire how beautiful the world’s metaphoric marigolds really are. This helps me stop the arithmetic in my head of how many pieces of trash I won’t be able to pick up today and throw away. So I measure how much I am doing, and vow to add more. Save the dolphins, save the trees and save the planet, one additional attempt at subtracting trash at a time.


I have shamed my family by conserving water through the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” routine, and I turn the faucet off between face splashes, dishes, and leg shaves. I use a container in the sink and shower when possible to catch water to use in the garden. I am working on my addiction to buying things and of course, I am lucky enough to live in California where most stores don’t use one-use plastic bags any more.  There are environmentally friendly bags, albeit still plastic, for when I walk my dogs, so buying and using them is at least a step in the right direction. I haven’t figured out how to scoop poop with paper bags, so….. again, my motto is at least do everything I can today. Feel guilty when I fail. Feel happy when I succeed. And tomorrow do more.


All of my tithes and offerings now go to planet changers and people changers. There are many good people and groups and organizations throughout the world to choose from and to give even a couple of bucks to in order to support the cause of helping our planet live a bit longer than the projected 5-10 years we may have to turn it all around and to help re-achieve sustainable economics for people around the globe. I remind myself, that I have been admonished to bring the kingdom of God to earth, as it is everywhere in the heavens or in the unknown parts out there somewhere in God’s un-fallen, un-sinful, unpolluted cosmos.


I cheer my little, wee unimportant self on with the stories of Meg Murray and Calvin O’Keefe; of Frodo and Sam and Treebeard and (you won’t find in the movies these characters, also among my favorites!!) of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry. I remember the stories of Abel and Boaz and Abraham; and of Gandalf and the Lorax and Jesus;  and, oh, yes!– of all the real and imaginary small people who believed that the world did not belong to them but that they belonged to the world.  I privately ask myself and I soul-search among the Universe and the gods and The God; and the great Wizards and the long-memoried Ents; and the family that I love and the friends that I love,– I ask myself, in light of all of these –“what will my story be”? I ponder in my prayers to that Friend of Sinners, just as that wee hobbit Sam wondered to his own friend and Master: “What a tale we have been in, Mr. Frodo, haven’t we?”, Sam said. “I wish I could hear it told.  Do you think they’ll say: Now comes the story of Nine-fingered Frodo and the ring of Doom? And then everyone will hush, like we did, when in Rivendell they told us the tale of Beren One-hand and the Great Jewel. I wish I could hear it! And I wonder how it will go on after our part.”  Oh yes, it is humbling and necessary to reflect on how The Story will go on after my part, if I do my part.

Oh, look around today. Look at the kaleidoscopic colors and shapes of trees and the lovely hues of water. Look at faces of beloved ones, not just your people, but including the faces of trees and squirrels and marigolds. And ask yourself, “I wonder, how it all will go on after my part”?

One of my favorite authors and TED Talk presenters is Kathryn Schultz.  In her book, Being Wrong, Adventures in the Margin of Error, she writes about both the foolishness and the miracle of being human. I think what she says is of scriptural proportion when it comes to wondering about and wandering along on our planet as human beings:

“To err is to wander and wandering is the way we discover the world and lost in thought it is also the way we discover ourselves. Being right might be gratifying but in the end it is static a mere statement. Being wrong is hard and humbling and sometimes even dangerous but in the end it is a journey and a story. Who really wants to stay at home and be right when you can don your armor spring up on your steed and go forth to explore the world. ”  “The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t.”
Kathryn Schulz

I feel it is past time for us to stop being static when it comes to caring for our world. We must don our armor, as Schultz preaches, and go forth as humble heroes. We must not only tilt at windmills, we must make and use more of them to meet our need for energy. We must not only seek the holy grail, we must reuse the one we already own. We must not only change the course of our planet’s history, we must recycle the wisdom of saviors, and sages, and fiction-writers, and TED talkers, and trees. I sort of hope that someday, my tombstone might read: “Here lies Jane. She really tried”.


I am embarrassed and ashamed at how little I do and feel silly posting this with so many who are really living radically or responsibly. Please read about and find out about the real world-changers who are living lives well-lived before they return to the earth and before our planet is irrevocably changed for the worse forever. At the same time as I state how often I am wrong and how often I get bogged down by the world and the way it is,  I encourage any one reading this to just try. Just as I am trying to do, make a start. And try as Ms. Schultz says, to “see the world as it isn’t” and add, “yet”. The world isn’t perfect yet, but it can be. It once was. We just need to start doing our part and changing the story’s falling action and rewrite our fears and hopes about the story’s end.  As Sam Gamgee did. As our favorite fictional nanny might say to us children of the earth, “well begun is half done”. Just do it, and one small act will, when laced with and lashed to hope, lead to another small act, and all of us small people on our small globe really can make a difference, in our own hearts and lives, in our own communities, and I pray, on our own small planet.

We do not know what our own particular “ring” to carry might be. We never truly and unselfishly and without a great degree of fear, failure, and pessimism, want to take up our own cross to bear. Much as The Christ did not want to take up his cross but did anyway, we must just say, “No matter what I don’t know, no matter what people may think, no matter how afraid I am, no matter how I may fail–well, I’ll do it anyway”. And as Frodo found, in the end, it is the people who say, “I will take the ring, even though I do not know the way” who live best for The One who is The Way.

I am learning much from native and indigenous teachings on how to live in harmony with nature. I have also found the collection of poetry and reflections entitled The Psalms to be good food for the soul in terms of living universally with other beings and the matters of the universe.  I am encouraged by novels like “The Lord of the Rings”, “A Wrinkle in Time”, and “Howard’s End” along with the poets and visual artists who nudge us with reminders of earth’s beauty, in words and paints. Musicians like Ludovico Einaudi and Mozart and Dolores O’Riordan make my heart throb with both pain and with hope for humankind. There are many good books on spiritual paths to living in harmony with the Creator and Creation. Find one at your library that suits you. We have been tasked as human beings to care for the Creator’s creations and the created world we live in. In this, we do what we were designed to do in the beginning. In this, we are the imago dei and only in this, do we practice love to all. All.


The old chestnut by Joyce Kilmer, much memorized by school children in the later century, is considered sappy (are you following my intentional puns so far?) and has justly been rooted out from the vast forest of poems that are considered classics. But as a lover of poetry and a writer of, (and I apologize) at best, C- poetry, myself, I think it is unjust to lop off Kilmer’s creative intent and toss it into the woodpile with his sapling-sized rhymes.  I mean, c’mon, the guy had to contend with being called “Joyce”.


by Joyce Kilmer
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.


My secret dream is that someday,  when I am old and ready to pass on to the great unknown, my family can bury my body as food for the worms, wrapped in an ecologically-chemically free shroud near a body of water, next to a tree. If there are any weeping willows left on the planet, that would be a fitting place for this old romantic. I will be happy to give the last thing I own, my body, to feed a tree because so many trees have fed me, body and soul.  My family thinks I am morbid to think about being eaten by worms and tree roots, but when I think about it, I feel hopeful. Hopeful that when I die there might still be bodies of water and trees that still exist to feed the bodies and souls of my children and my children’s children. I hope to leave fewer carbon footprints behind but perhaps I shall manage to leave behind the footprint of one small skeletal love as a gift to my planet. I hope the world will receive the hopes of this insignificant person’s offerings, and that even in death, my love for this old world will be met by the hope of a new heaven and new earth. As the Great Man said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.”(Jesus as related in John 12: 24-25)


The seeds of our destruction are horrifically being sown everywhere, but if a tiny acorn can grow into a mighty oak, then I too, may hope to sow, where I do not reap, and to plant seeds of hope that may one day blossom into a restored and renewed world, for my children and my children’s children. I wear on a chain around my neck a small container of mustard seeds. My daughter, Justine gave it to me as a gift when she was very young to remind me that all I am required to have is a mustard-seed sized faith. Here’s a picture of a mustard tree and encouragement to believe what all our minuscule mustard seeds and a bit of faith in the goodness of our planet might achieve:



In 1981, a program was started to help lost children survive in the wilderness. It was called “Hug-a-tree”.  In 2019, it is the trees that are lost and losing and that we must help to survive.  Become a tree-hugger today.  Perhaps, as the poet wrote only God can make a tree, but right now, right this minute, it is up to us to care for them. As Frost wrote, someday, I shall have less to say, so today I shall make the reckless choice and speak out. The Way of Truth and Light and Love is always the path least taken, but more of us need to start taking it if we want to save the world. Yes, let us take the path less taken, without trod-ding on more rain forests, or depleting more glaciers, or extinguishing more critters; let us take the path less taken of humility and hope and love for our planet; and in that way, we shall make all the difference.



Below is a link for the article from The Guardian on planting trees to save our planet. You will find many other good articles and resources in their section entitled “Environment”.

Suddenly, God

Suddenly, God

By Jane Tawel

June 17, 2019


It is the second time I have been privileged to hear Ludovico Einaudi in concert. Both times, the tickets were a gift to Raoul and me from our daughter, Verity. Both times, rather early in the concert, during the first piece, all in a moment, like being immersed in a quite spontaneous, warm, fragrant bath, I realized in a complete seamless, piece of understanding, that there is a God. As I sit in my home this morning, my inability to find words is, in actuality the only way, this morning as the newspapers fly onto the neighborhood yards, and the alarm clocks go off throughout my house—my inability to write how that one moment of God-ness felt, is how this morning I am able to convince myself, that it must be truth. It is perhaps different for different people but for me, the realization that there must truly be That Being that is Other than myself, can not be a doctrinal assent of the mind nor a feeling  in my heart that I am loved or worthy. No, it is the opposite of all the things I teach myself or think. It is the opposite of feeling that somehow I am something at all important or that matters. God has been made so small, so common, so pathetically understandable, and so all about us; and I have found myself fleeing that simplistic God that is being used, not worshiped.


Ah, but then like an unexpected turn in the road and the sight of something so beyond me, showing up like a miracle, like an ocean must have appeared to an early woman or man. God is mostly absent here now, until He isn’t. There is a Some-one Who Is, when one hears a creator like Einaudi; when one watches music immerge from the musicians on stage who have nothing more than large and small boxes of wood with strings strung from end to end; when one sits in a cathedral, like UCLA Royce Hall or Walt Disney Concert Hall, amidst the realized imaginings of architects like James and David Allison or Frank Gehry; when one rubs shoulders with a child who somehow has been created in the image of a god and who loves you enough to spend hard earned cash on you and children who choose to spend the precious time of their youth with old, worn out you—when all of that comes together so that you can hear in person an artist—no artist is too humanistic—a god– like Ludovico Einaudi, then, somehow in the depths of what we might call one’s soul, there is an understanding of “More”. There must be a More.


As I grow older, I know less about God than ever. I see through with no small amount of pain, the selfish, misguided religions that so many want to give Someone credit for and I mourn the loss of God in my own country as people co-opt religion for their own greedy, humanistic needs and desires. And then I hear a human being create the music that Ludovico and his awe-inspiring, supporting musicians create, and I realize that though most of us are going to return to the dusty dust that we belong to, and rightly so; there are human beings who must surely be a part of Something, Someone who is “More”.  There must be a Being who also attended the concert with me last night, that thinks to Herself, “Yes, this. This is worthy. This is holy. This is what I had in mind when I created these beings called humans.  This is what will last for Eternity. This I will not discard.  This is worth keeping.”


And I pray, “Lord, Father-Mother of this planet of beauty and sensual delights. Forgive our destruction and careless uncaring. Please save our planet. Please save the glaciers and mountains; the tigers and sea lions; the dandelions and lilacs and bees; the wheat fields and olive trees; the gurgling streams and humming doves and ticking crickets. Please save the makers of music, the designers of temples; the painters of starry nights and last suppers. And please, dear One Who Must Be Real, please save some of us to sit in the audience. Please let me be an appreciative, humble audience for the gods and for You, The God.”


Sitting in a dark theatre. Hearing this:




Suddenly, God.



Composer and Pianist Ludovico Einaudi Performs in the Arctic Ocean
Greenpeace organiza un concierto historico con el pianista Ludovico Einaudi en el oceano çrtico para pedir su proteccion.


An Orphan Seeking The Great Spirit

An Orphan Seeking The Great Spirit

By Jane Tawel

June 9, 2019


I felt adrift at home within

Without, I felt a loss.

America’s vast greedy sins

Revealed themselves as dross.


I thought I might find Shangri-La

In Canada’s vast reaches,

But going there I saw it doesn’t practice

What it preaches.


I thought I’d fall in love with Spain,

But everywhere folk suffer pain,

One only has to take a glance

At England, Russia, China, France,

To see the world is wide and deep

In anger, sorrow, deeply steeped;

And looking through one’s foundling glasses

Does not make greener any grasses.


The Wise Ones counsel seeking Truth,

But don’t show where to find it.

I’ve spent long years just gathering clues

Now Spirit and Love must bind it.


It’s only inner peace combined

With outer love and open mind,

For Heaven on earth must find its start

Within a human’s contrite heart.


Oh, Great One Who created us,

Forgive our pillage of the Earth.

Please heal the hatred we have stoked,

Against our own and foreign folks.

Help me to find the narrow path,

So as not to incur Your wrath.

No matter where I live or roam,

Help me to treat the earth as home.

And may I live another day,

To follow The Great Spirit’s Way.

I offer You, my paltry best,

So, one day I may find my rest,

Not here in any temporal plain,

But in the Havens of Your Reign.


Until that day when I return

To dust and all the waste-lands burn

And world from World at last resumes

A safe, clean distance from The Doom.

When Mother Earth, reborn to life,

With no more evil, no more strife,

Will virginal, regain Her course,

Forever wed to Great Life Force.


Away from Earth’s small gratitudes,

I’ll seek the light, and love, and truth

Of The Great Spirit, Creator, God

And I shall humbly be awed,

By places, people, beings, times,

And through my feeble, awkward rhymes,

I’ll offer praise for all and All,

that spins around on this vast ball.


My heart is tender-footed.

My yearning is unwise.

You, Spirit of the Ages,

Please open my dark eyes.

Engage my hands to service,

In healing and in hope.

Accept this wandering orphan,

And purify my soul.



So Easy to Mourn on Paper – a poem




So Easy To Mourn on Paper

By Jane Tawel

May 16, 2019

It’s so easy to mourn on paper.

Send a card,

Say a prayer,

Give a thought,

Act like you care.


It’s so easy to mourn at a distance;

Read the morning news,

Write a post,

Hop on the back

Of a famous quote.


The hard way comes with changing–

Just yourself,

Maybe the world,

Digging deep for

Love’s hidden pearls.


The difficult path is narrow.

Pretend their shoes you wear;

Not thoughts and prayers,

But sorrow.


It’s so easy to mourn on paper,

Where ink not ashes are worn.

But to mourn and die like a Savior,

Means to be completely reborn.

To cry like a little baby,

In need of a Great Big Daddy,

Is to know the day’s dark tragedy,

And a broken world’s true gravity.


But Oh! My soul connected

To Christ’s mourning

Is then resurrected,

By the hope of a God who mourns with us,

So that one day, we shall rise like Jesus.


It’s so easy to mourn on paper,

As a poet, oh, don’t I know it.

But to mourn with suffering others

Yes, strangers, yet somehow

 my sisters and brothers;

to not dry my eyes,

  but to weep by their sides

is at least one small stride,

In reducing my pride.


Blessed are those who cry

And cry,

And cry,

with those who cry,

“Save us, Adonai!”


For the long path of grief,

Goes a short way towards new life.

A baby is not born alive,

Unless The Physician hears cries.

Each day my rebirth

In The One who loved Earth,

Enough to bring life

To our sorrow and strife,

Will give my sad heart

Like a child, a new start.

And with that first breath and first weeping sight,

I breathe in God’s truth, God’s love, and God’s light.


If I die with Him

And mourn with them,


In that final morning

I will wake — no more mourning!

What a life that will be

When joy is so easy.


So God, help me today

And hereafter, each morning

To heed your Word’s warning

To do, not just say,

To act, not just pray,

To love, not just pen,

For enemy, and friend.


Like a baby just born,

Please God, help me to mourn;

To spread love of The Brother,

Christ, Who, like a mother,

Wept for us all.

For, we, After The Fall,

Had so lost our way,

That The Christ had to pay

For our lives, on the Cross.

So that all we have lost,

Through our sin and sorrow,

May just as the Christ,

Be restored on that  ‘morrow,

When tears are all dried,

And with Him we will rise.


Ah, Lord, help me to weep,

With a God who still seeps

Life through the pages

And through all the ages,

In The Word and The words,

in the flowers and birds,

in the fields and the stars,

and in each beating heart,

of Your children, boys and girls,

throughout the whole world.


Lord,  in You

Our love be made whole,

So that we may be holy.

Lord, in You,

Our words be true,

That we may be like You.

Lord, in You,

Our paths be straight,

So we may be healed from hate.

Lord, in You,

May our strengths be bound,

So that in You, our joy is found.

Lord, in You,

our mourning make blessed,

So, we may be resurrected.


It’s so easy to mourn on paper,

But so hard to do on Christ’s rood.

Yet, it’s only through blood

There is life from Above.

So no matter how crude,

I will suffer with you,

And in mourning

Will learn how to love.



If You Give a Louse a Cookie



I simply don’t post food pictures to the public, and so this post is not about a recipe for oatmeal cookies but a recipe for a dream.

Today as I made these (and I confess, ate a couple of warm ones); I found myself thinking: If I could just sit down all the world’s leaders at my kitchen table right now, and say, “If you will stop hurting people, and stop destroying the planet, and start being nice and playing well with others, I will let you have as many of these yummy, warm cookies as you would like. Would you prefer a cold glass of milk or some hot tea with your cookies?”

And then all the nations’ leaders would put warm cookies in their mouths instead of words of hate; and with their fingers they would tweezer up the crumbs, instead of pulling triggers; and then they would smile at each other with little bits of cookie stuck in their teeth; and all the world could get back to their families, and jobs, and playgrounds in safety, and peace.

Well, if John Lennon could “Imagine” it, why not I? Remember that old optimistic song, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”? Today, I’m just really, really deeply feeling, “I’d like to share with the world a warm cookie”. . .

In the spirit of the world’s children and in the spirit of warm cookies, here is my silly take and quixotic dream-like riff on that famous children’s book by Laura Joffe.

If You Give a Louse a Cookie

by Jane Tawel


If you give a louse a cookie,

A louse who rules the world,

He’s probably going to want some milk to go with it.

And if you give him a cookie in one hand,

And a glass of milk in the other hand,

Well then, that louse-ey ruler,

won’t have any hands to hurt people.

And if the louse eats the cookie and drinks the milk,

He’s probably going to want to help you

make more delicious cookies,

Which means he won’t have time to

plan destruction.

And if he doesn’t have hands to hurt,

or time to plan destruction,

and has a belly full of warm, delicious cookies;

Why, then he’s probably going to want a nap.

And if he take a nap, well then,

He probably won’t want to wake up to a world

where all the icecaps, and clean air, and giraffes

have been destroyed.

And if he takes a deep breath of lovely air,

and pets a beautiful giraffe,

Why then he’s probably going to want to

tell someone about it.

And if that lousy ruler sees a needy person next to him,

Well, then, he’s probably going to want

to share a cookie with that person.

And if the ruler shares a  cookie with another human being,

They are probably going to smile at each other.

 And the ruler is probably not going to want

to be a louse any more.

And if he isn’t a louse any more,

and treats others as he would like to be treated,

well, then he will probably have finally worked up

an honest appetite,

for an honest day’s work.

And if he works that hard

at making the world a better place,

rather than a worse one,

Well, then he’s probably going to need

a glass of milk.

And if you give him a glass of milk,

Why, then…

He will probably want another cookie

to go with it.


The Broken Circle — Thoughts after Fiddler on The Roof and Another Killing in America

The Broken Circle

By Jane Tawel

April 28, 2019



Yesterday afternoon, while Raoul and I were being metaphorically “blown away” by the eternally classic and in this production, at the Pantages Theatre, phenomenally performed “Fiddler on the Roof”, more people, in my country this “land of the free”, were being literally blown away because they are Jewish. The horrible “inhuman” who did this latest evil, said in his obvious and utterly hateful stupidity, that one of his inspirations was the greatest Jewish human who ever lived, Jesus, who some believe was the Jewish Messiah. I wish I could say, oh, how ironic, but this surpasses irony which I usually get at least some enjoyment out of noting.  This claiming Jesus the Jew as inspiration for violence against Jews, is instead a meta-example of what I have come to believe is the worst plague ever visited upon humans – the plague of ignorant hatred. It is the sickness that happens when people let their hatred make them stupid. It is the stupidity that we allow when we do not teach people the difference between right and wrong. It is the false sense of identity we get when we allow ourselves to choose traditions that are easy to keep and a religion unmoored from its historical basis. It is what people who call themselves “little Christs” do when they focus on something other than the traditions God has entrusted them with as followers of Yahweh.


If we as humans do not start trying to figure out and teach truthfully, intelligently, humbly about The God of Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Deborah, and David – and frankly, also the God of Ishmael, Jesus, and Paul– we will continue to live with the violence born from our godless fear of “the other”, whomever that “other” happens to be. If we do not see “the other” as we do the  men and women we like so much at a distance, those we choose to accept as Jews if they  entertain us on our televisions or that we like to claim as our own now, those Jewish heroes we like to quote from like Joshua or Jonah—if we do not change our hearts and do something about the continuing prejudices that lead to yet another tragedy– then we are not following a God that we claim to find in The Bible.  Oh, we all love Tevye, that iconic Jew in the musical – the one that makes us laugh and cry, that Jew that we “all just love!” as long as he stays on the stage and doesn’t talk back to us. But if we don’t teach our children more than a few musical song and dance routines about a God and the people He has chosen to carry-on the traditions of the type of faith and worship that God has given and required of all human beings, of all nations and tribes –then we will keep waking up to a world where our own personal Sabbaths are in vain and our traditions of faith are nothing more than the lies of entitlement we cling to.


We have to do something more than shake our heads and talk; especially those of us who want to be “grafted on” to Jesse’s tree,  but who seem to have tragically and perilously thrown out the tree and kept just our “Christian” lopped off branches. We have thrown out the traditions that all God’s Chosen People are encouraged – nay! required to follow. We have stopped telling the Passover Story. We have stopped meditating on the stories of redemption that God commands His people to humble themselves with in the telling. “Remember, I am the God who brought you out of Egypt”, God says with every single command He gives. We have used the current and modern nation of Israel as an un-criticised and misunderstood shield against truthfully figuring out who exactly does God choose as His. We have thrown out Shabbat and Sabbath rest and replaced it with some psychological feel-good pep talks by well-paid speakers, followed by brunch, shopping and football.  We have thrown out the study of Torah and the meditation on the Tanakh and refused to accept that the One we claim to be The Son of God had only those books of Torah to teach him and bring Him close to God’s Kingdom on Earth. We have stopped creating circles of peace and instead have formed lines of entitlement.


As I watched the character of Golde, the Jewish mama in the play, prepare the Shabbat Seder meal, unbeknownst to me at a Passover Shabbat meal preparation in San Diego, Jewish families were once again mourning the tragic persecution of loved ones due to the prejudice against Jews the world has long stoked and looked away from. I sat in my cushy, front and center chair—the tickets were a wonderful, special gift from my daughter for my husband’s birthday. My daughter, Verity, has a tradition of gifting us with extravagant tickets to plays, concerts, shows that we otherwise would not see. It is a tradition born out of her love and generous heart.


In the play, Tevye too, has a deep love and a generous heart, for his family, just like my daughter. Tevye also has a tradition of taking his problems off to one side and talking in asides to God. This has been a tradition for centuries of course, of the men and women who talk to God. Talking to God can be done as a group- event, but it really works best when done in humbled solitude and in private – just the human being talking with and listening to The God-Being. There are famous recorded asides to God even before God chose the Hebrews to talk with and listen to. What is considered possibly the earliest book of the Bible has a long and famous aside by a character called Job.  Abraham went in private off to one side  and gambled with God over Lot and the ten good men he hoped God could find in Sodom.  Moses spent forty days in that historically famous aside with God on the mountaintop, receiving the Torah and God’s commands for the people that God alone could lead to the Promised Land. Samuel, who became a great prophet of the Jews wouldn’t have existed without the private prayers that Hannah his mother, would pray alone to her God, begging Him to hear her cries. Later, Mary, the mother of Jesus would, as an aside, recite a Hebrew psalm of praise for her chosen status as a poor and persecuted Jewish woman, who was nevertheless to be highly exalted because she as a Jew, was  called to do God’s will. And then there is that Jewish man, that my own religious tradition holds to be our Savior.  That Jew named Jesus spent more time in asides  and in prayer to Yahweh, God of the Hebrews, than he did in talking with the characters in his own story.


But as I watched Tevye and Golde, Lazar Wolf, and Yente, and all those amazing characters brought to life by the actors on stage; and as Tevye walked to one side of the stage to say in an aside to his God: “God I know we are Your chosen people but every once in a while couldn’t You choose someone else?” –as I laughed with the ironic humor of Tevye’s words — a Jewish woman named Lori Kaye had been shot dead, and three people were injured —  Noya Dahan, an eight year old Jewish girl who is just a little younger than that  famous and in the hindsight of history beloved Jewish girl named Anne Frank; and the Jewish Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, and a Jew named Almog Peretz – those Jewish people were not walking off stage after gathering for the traditional prayers to their God.  Those Jewish people from the Chabad Synagogue in Poway – those Jewish people were joining the age-old tradition of people being targeted, persecuted, and killed because, and only because – they are Jewish.


This phenomenal production I saw, of “Fiddler” stays true to the historical time and place of the original: “The Pale of Settlement of Imperial Russia around 1905”.  Of course, it must stay true to the setting in a play that is as historically specific as this one.  But there is one slight change the director made that for me made a world of difference.


At the top of the show at the gorgeous and glorious Pantages Theatre, the patriarch, the “Papa”, Tevye, walks onto a completely bare stage. He is not yet dressed in the garb of a poor 1905 Russian Jew. The actor comes out, minus the head covering that Jewish men wear to humble themselves and to show that God is over and above them in power and respect.  He is minus the tallit, whose four tasseled corners will hang down from Tevye’s waist throughout the performance.  The tallit is worn by Jewish men because they are commanded in the Torah, “to recall all the commandments of the Lord, Your God, and to observe them”.  Tevye, that iconic and beloved Jew of fiction, comes out instead as modern man in a maroon anorak, hatless, his brown, slightly greying hair curling up like a halo around his ears, wearing modern eyeglasses pushed up on his trim nose, looking like any one you might currently meet on any street in America. In the actor’s hands, he carries a small leather book that he is silently reading. He just stands there for a bit in silence, reading something in the pages of the book.  And then without speaking yet, he hands the book off to another villager  just then coming onto the stage, whisks off his red winter coat, to reveal underneath, his costume as Tevye, and the play begins with the introduction to the song, “Tradition”.


At the end of “Fiddler on the Roof”, Tevye’s entire village is forced to leave their homes and livelihoods and although they have no money and little means, they are forced to find somewhere else to live. Tevye, Golde and their two remaining young daughters are off to throw themselves on the kindness of a relative who lives in America.  One of Tevye’s daughters and son-in-law are going to Warsaw, Poland. It hit me for the first time yesterday, that the author of the musical’s book probably chose Warsaw as a foreshadowing of what would happen to the Jews there, just as it was happening to them in the musical’s setting of pogrom-ready Russia.  It hit me, as I sat in my plush theatre seat yesterday, when I heard the hopeful young couple tell their parents, Tevye and Golde that they would join them soon in America – I thought, they will never make it to America.  They will die in Poland. The little Jewish baby that Tevye’s daughter holds in her arms will be about thirty-four years old when Germany invades Poland.


Meanwhile, another Jewish woman – a descendant of a Jewish couple who surely had to flee somewhere in the world at some time in the world’s history– was dead in America and three others wounded, including a Rabbi. Six months earlier in Philadelphia, eleven other Jewish descendants of other Jews were targeted and slain. Tevye’s village leaves still holding on to a  strong hope for their futures, but of course we know in the audience, that soon the Jews will be slaughtered by the millions and the world will be witness to a holocaust that will only end when  metaphorically once more the Red Seas are parted and the hands and chariots of destruction of those who would eradicate God’s Chosen People are stayed again by the God who has promised to never break His covenant with His People.


As the play ends, and all the villagers carry their belongings away from the only home they have known, the character of the Rabbi carries only a large scroll. The Rabbi may have to leave his home with the others, but he will carry Torah with him wherever he goes. The characters, rather than leaving the stage one by one as in past productions, push carts of their belongings and walk single file, until they eventually are walking around and around the stage in a tight and closed circle. The circle of actors keeps going around and around, and in this show, the symbolic character of the fiddler on the roof, does not stay behind but rather joins Tevye and the others, to go fiddle precariously in a new and foreign land. The circling Jews are being expelled, being robbed of their goods and homes, having been beaten, separated from loved ones, imprisoned –but they are holding fast to their faith and wherever they go they will cling to their identities as God’s Chosen People and they will trust in The Lord Who Took Them Out of Egypt.


The Jews of “The Fiddler on The Roof” form a circle on the stage that keeps going round and round, and round – a circle of silent resignation; a circle of community that will stay strong no matter where they disperse to; a circle of hope for the future of God’s people born out of their suffering and yet intent on grasping at joy; a circle of identity they share, not in any nation—any nation—but only in God’s community of humble followers; a circle of tradition.


At the very last moment of “The Fiddler on the Roof”, when the audience expects to rise as one and applaud, suddenly, out of the circle of Russian 1905 Jewish characters, and without warning, steps the modern looking– maybe American? maybe European? maybe even Israeli or Palestinian– man?  He is dressed again, not in the peasant clothes of the character Tevye, but in the eyeglasses and the maroon anorak, minus the skull cap, minus the prayer shawl, with his greying hair uncovered before His God. And this modern-day Tevye comes silently out of the circle. It is Tevye, but it is not Tevye.  In his hands, the man holds that same leather-bound book and he is silently reading it. Then he looks up from the book, looks at the circling, circling, ever circling cast of Jewish men, women and children going around and around the stage, as if he is gazing at Jews on this spinning globe, going around and around the world. Then the man in the modern coat looks back at the book.  The circle of villagers begins to break apart and leave the stage until the man is left alone with the leather bound book. Finally, he looks up and out at us the audience, and then – did I see it or just imagine it? – he takes a quick look up at His God, the God of The Book, as if to ask in a private aside:

“God, when will this cycle of pain and persecution end? When will Your People live in safety and freedom and joy? When will the circle be unbroken, Lord?”


I Am Woman Hear Me Implore



I Am Woman, Hear Me Implore

By Jane Tawel

April 24, 2019


Sometimes I really have to respond, and I found this was true recently when a young friend I know was struggling with some ideas about what he termed, “feminism”.  I have learned to my chagrin that it is often pointless to engage with people and other times I hold out hope. This time I decided to hope and my responding briefly to this man, in turn, led to this poem and enlarged meditation.

I Am Woman, Hear Me Implore

A Poem By Jane Tawel

April 24, 2019

I Am Woman, Hear Me Implore!

Love stands ready at the door.

I am different, it is true.

But are we so disparate, I and you?

If I hurt you, will you not bleed?

Do we not suffer from the same needs?

Do men always have to throw in a spanner,

If I come at things in a unique manner?

And if I choose to use my heart,

Well, doesn’t that mean I’m just different-smart?


God doesn’t see me as mother or whore,

Oh, I am Woman! and I implore,

Please look at me, my friends and brothers,

Just as you would your beloved daughters.

And I promise you back, all you masculine ones,

I will love you as I would love my own son.


I Am Woman, and will not be labeled,

For I am strong and I am able.

But wouldn’t it be even more grand,

If we men and women would live life hand in hand?


I am Woman, a name Jesus could tell

To those like his own mother and the one at the well.

It’s a label befitting a daughter and queen

Who can rule with God in His World, yet unseen.


Oh, I am Woman, and I kindly implore,

Do not wait for heaven on some future shore.

We, brothers and sisters, can bring heaven to earth,

If we give no more labels but each other, true worth.


I Am Woman and I merely implore,

Love is ready and at the door.


We live in a world that makes me tired. And sad; one in which people seem to make up their minds based on either a herd mentality or a mistaken self-centered rationale. With these two attitudes, people justify pointing the finger at non-PLU’s. And rather than making a concerted effort to increase their intelligence or, God forbid, a desire to grow wiser, they argue their points to calm and address, not the world’s injustices, but their own “quiet lives of desperate fears”.  But I found I had to dredge it up within myself to get into the ring with this friend of mine, and by extension others, both male and female, and by using as much kindness but truth as I can muster.


The post was about “feminism”, a label that I guess is trending again and used by both women and men as if they all mean the same thing by it, which I am darn sure from reading and listening to what people say, that they do not. This recent post was about ideas the writer had on two kinds of people I have been at times identified with – Christians, and women. It intrigues me when someone purports to discuss something that I identify with, in this case, women. Especially when as in this case it is something this other person is not, since he is a man. The worst part of it for me was that he chose not to talk about women, but about “feminism”.  And I do get my dander up a bit and climb onto my high horse, whenever anyone has to choose a label for other human beings to express ideas or philosophies. I think using labels should be reserved for food that has an expiration date, not for human beings, and I dislike labels for people, whether that label is feminist, liberal, conservative, or vegetarian. I especially go into over -drive when the person using the label is not putting said label on him or herself as well as on others. But labeling is just as bad when used to identify myself with perhaps not enough actual proof that I am acting in ways, doing things that are implied by my label.  For instance, if I label myself a vegetarian because I am upset about the way animals are treated before becoming meat, but I am not doing anything else to protest the way animals are treated, well, then do I honestly think my labeling myself is going to do any good for any one? I just metaphorically want to take all the little label makers and devices in the world and run them until they are all out of paper or plastic or metal or whatever they use to make labels, and force people to try to talk without the use of sticky notes. Labels do imply sticky issues, though, don’t they? This sticky-wicket issue I have with labels is one reason I just can’t use the shorthand labels I used to use for myself, like “Christian”, or “Independent” or even sometimes the label, “American”. But I am still rather proud and content to be labeled “woman”.


When men decide to discuss “feminism”, I need to point out that the attitudes of men are usually very obvious to us women, no matter what men say or how they may spin it. The underlying male belief that somehow feminism is about them, would be hilarious if it were not part of the problem. Men are almost always in positions of power so that even if they talk about change, it is excruciatingly apparent, from the metaphors they choose and the language of their “pep talks” to women that they see little risk they themselves will need to change. For people who claim a worldview of “Christianity”, I can only suggest that they might want to meditate on the greatest person who was ever labeled a feminist– Jesus Christ.


It’s not such a bad idea for all people around the globe, whatever religion they might label themselves with, to frankly and humbly start looking at the radicalization of stereotypes that the religion of the Hebrews originally espoused and that Jesus Christ took to the next level. This is in fact what all those who have managed to change the world have done. It is what Gandhi did. It is what Martin Luther King, Jr. did. It is what Mother Teresa did. It is what Nelson Mandela did. It is what Jesus did. And it is what the women who became disciples of Jesus did, long before the word “feminism” arrived as fodder. Sadly, even those early Jewish female world changers have had to take a back seat, a Rosa Parks type seat, in the pantheon of world-changers.


And I’m sorry but much of this prejudiced injustice is actually done by the spreading of misinformation,  sleight of hand, and the rewriting of history – even to the point that books that are meant to be holy, like Christianity’s New Testament,  are rewritten to deny women the first places they deserve, not just the honorable mentions they sometimes get. When we put labels on strong women who want to change the world for the good of others, we are using the power of words to deny the righteousness of their cause. If these ideas about feminism that I am raising, make a man uncomfortable as even just the word “feminism” tends to do, then if he wants to grow and be wise, or especially if he wants to claim to think like God thinks, he should figure out why it makes him uncomfortable. Because the bottom line is that men have been making women “uncomfortable” for centuries.


Where I personally start on this is where I try to start on many things, especially in this day and age. I forbid myself the luxury of labels. When we label people, we are on a very, very slippery slope and eventually, labeling people lets those who have the power gain even more power over those people they stereotype as “lesser -thans”. Labeling has been the justification for a world of horrific things; from the American justification of slavery to the Nazis’ justification of The Holocaust. Does it not frighten you as much as it does me, that no matter where you are living today in the globe, the people in power –power in the halls of governments, in the temples and churches and mosques of religions; power in educational institutions, and the powers of color and monetary status– are once again justifying their shorthand labeling of those not like themselves, in order to gain more power to act unjustly, to deny people basic human needs, to destroy?


I have come to absolutely hate labels like “liberal”, “conservative”, “feminist”, “evangelical” etc., because frankly most people use those labels  — either for others or themselves—to merely choose a shorthand for their prejudices and / or their ignorance. They may be trying to hide their prejudices from others so as not to be judged, but often I think they are hiding their prejudiced minds and angry, frightened hearts from themselves. When we hide things about ourselves from ourselves it enables us not to have to work at being a better person and not to have to change. Changing ourselves could lead to changing the world, and that, especially for those already with any amount of power over others, is frightening.


For those of us who want somehow to follow a God who chooses women, people of color, and poor people to change the world, we must learn to identify ourselves  first, foremost, and only with The God  who labels us images of Him. We must study and choose to live in The Way of a man-god who spoke to women as equals. We should tremble to label ourselves “little-Christs”. For if we label ourselves as those who are like Jesus, then we will be judged on the way we are causing others to label The Christ. If men must be careful, we women need to be equally careful that we do not fall into the trap of setting ourselves apart, neither reveling in our  strength or in our weakness, neither choosing a feminist role lived in antagonism to men nor in an anachronistic feminine attempt to live in the past.


We all, men and women, must always be referred back to our lives in Christ and our need to understand what God tried to tell us in various ways through His Word and revelations. In terms of human gender and sexuality, we are called to such a different idea about what is important and what is not, what is meant to be different between us and what is not, and what most importantly of all, we will all be changed into when we are made like Jesus in His Kingdom. It is no amount of irony that some of the people who have lived on this earth have been most like Christ while not being at all “Christian”.  And I fear labeling anyone a  “Christian” today comes with more dangers and flat out lies than is worth any amount of identification short-hand. It is ironic that the term “Christian” was used originally as a demeaning label by those in power, and was not used by those who followed the Jewish religion of The Christ. This of course was at the same time that being labeled a “woman” was as destructive as any profiling has been in the history of the world.


There once was a man named Saul who was a really prejudiced guy; a racial profiler, a misogynist, an intelligent but completely wrong-headed, wrong-hearted evangelical –a guy who labeled others so he could use his power as a religious leader against them. Then this guy named Saul had a real encounter with a God who refused to pick people to serve Him based on their labels. That God chose Saul, despite all the labels I have just given him.  And that man spent the rest of his life trying to tear down the walls of prejudice that had been built around the city of God’s love. Saul, who became Paul, spent the rest of his life teaching and believing that a community of God-followers is meant to be a kingdom on earth where all peoples, tribes and genders are welcomed, and respected, and honored, and equal, and yes, even loved. Tragically, much of what is now attributed to Paul, maybe most especially those that some people quote about women and men, were added later as falsehoods or “tweaks” by the religious and government leaders who rose in the ranks of power. But Paul did write down some important words we should take to heart when we are labeling others. As Saint Paul learned after equal parts of suffering and joy, in the Kingdom of God, there is “neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, liberal nor conservative, misogynist nor feminist”.


If as Charis Kramarae has said “feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings”, then the radical notion of the Judeo-Christian worldview, is that human beings are gods and God’s. As a woman, I must strive to see others in the way that “The IAM Who Refuses All Labels” sees them. I must pray as we were taught to pray by “He Who Refused to See Others as Stereotypes”. And I must treat others in the here and now, so that it may be so in us, uniquely created, equally worthy, “on earth, as it is anywhere God is truly present.”





I Am Woman, Hear Me Implore

A Poem By Jane Tawel

April 24, 2019

I Am Woman, Hear Me Implore!

Love stands ready at the door.

I am different, it is true.

But are we so disparate, I and you?

If I hurt you, will you not bleed?

Do we not suffer from the same needs?

Do men always have to throw in a spanner,

If I come at things in a unique manner?

And if I choose to use my heart,

Well, doesn’t that mean I’m just different-smart?

God doesn’t see me as mother or whore,

Oh, I am Woman! and I implore,

Please look at me, my friends and brothers,

Just as you would your beloved daughters.

And I promise you back, all you masculine ones,

I will love you as I would love my own son.

I Am Woman, and will not be labeled,

For I am strong and I am able.

But wouldn’t it be even more grand,

If we men and women would live life hand in hand?


I am Woman, a name Jesus could tell

To those like his own mother and the one at the well.

It’s a label befitting a daughter and queen

Who can rule with God in His World, yet unseen.


Oh, I am Woman, and I kindly implore,

Do not wait for heaven on some future shore.

We, brothers and sisters, can bring heaven to earth,

If we give no more labels but each other, true worth.

I Am Woman and I merely implore,

Love is ready and at the door.

jesus and men and women