An article appeared in the New York Times about Israeli agronomists having succeeded in germinating the seed of a 2000-year-old Desert Date Palm tree. Scientists soaked the seeds in hot water to soften their coats, then bathed them in a hormone-rich solution and finally potted them in fertilized soil. Six weeks later, the earth cracked and the seeds sprouted. No seed that old has ever successfully germinated. Interestingly, these living seeds were found at Masada, the cliff fortress where, in 73 A.D., 960 Jewish zealots died at their own hand, rather than surrender to a Roman assault.

The Desert Date Palm is much praised for its shade, food, and medicinal qualities. The Koran describes it as a “symbol of goodness” that is associated with Heaven. It was the symbol of ancient Israel, and the honey referred to in “the land of milk and honey,” came from these dates. The Hebrew word for this tree is “Tamara,” and it is the root of my daughter’s name.

I read this story on her birthday, and it reminded me that, like her namesake, she has been a perpetual force for my growth. Tara has taken me to remote island reefs in the South China Sea to dive in an underworld paradise; to swim with dolphins off the Islas del Rosario; has made me look at the impact of genetically modified organisms and native seed elimination the world over; made me a part of her Oregon Country Faire family; and calls herself my “only Hippie son.”

This bright, competent, beautiful, uninhibited, irrepressible seed has forced me to grow and stretch my limits, even when I thought I was comfortable and reasonably secure. She is, however, only one of the incredible women in my life. I have spent my life blessedly surrounded by strong women, a wife and five daughters, who force me to look at my over-inflated male certainties and not run from my vulnerabilities, but instead use them to move forward.

Happy birthday, my Desert Date Palm, Princess Baby, and thanks to all my strong women who inspire the growth of this aging seed.