When I was attending woodworking school in Northern California in the mid 1980’s I’d pass a grove of eucalyptus trees on my way to class each day. I still remember the trees’ wonderful aroma in the fog and rain and the way they shed their blueish bark in long strips.
Recently my friend Ayla drove from Oregon to New Mexico and on her way through California found a stand of eucalyptus or blue gum trees where the Monarch butterflies make their winter home. She kindly picked up a few branches from the ground, brought them to me and I turned them into ten mezuzah cases.
Those eucalyptus branches brought back memories of my time on the coast in Mendocino County. I did a little bit of research on eucalyptus trees, and discovered that they were planted in great numbers in California during the gold rush by individuals seeking profit from deforestation and the need for more wood. But the promise of this fast-growing tree as a quick source of profit was unrealized when it was discovered that the young trees twisted and cracked badly when dried into lumber.
With the climate crisis and the terrible increase in forest fires that have resulted, the lovely but highly flammable shed bark of the blue gum tree has become a liability even as the tree’s invasive nature is damaging ecosystems. And so, not for the first time, the short-sighted, uninformed greed of a few has left behind a fraught legacy.
And here are ten mezuzah cases with delicate color, from a few found branches of a beautiful tree.“This mezuzah is not only beautiful (even more than in photos), but also meaningful. Having read the story of Hershel’s journey in Judaism and the story of the wood from which the mezuzah was carved, I’m putting it on my door with a feeling of connection, rather than a sense of obligation.” Hannah, Houston, Texas.