back in the city

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a pigeon at my window

See the city as an allegory of the human being… working up from the ground… the toes are less sensitive and agile, perhaps, than the fingers… it’s hard to play piano with the toes… but they hug the ground, and sense the direction, sometimes finding ecstatic pleasure in dew wetted grasses along the way… sometimes pushing hard leather shoes in rhythm along the path, or up the stairs… or through the great halls unknowingly… sometimes safely ensconced in open air sandals, like Hollywood actors driving by California beaches in open convertibles, when the world is their picnic, and there’s no where to go but forward…

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To what fine detail should I describe this allegory… should we move from toes to ankles, or from toes to knees… there is more in this story than a blog post might allow. The knees alone might deserve a day’s worth of praise… guiding our toes so skillfully while maintaining balance up above, bearing our weight bravely, yet ready at any moment to push us up stairs (if we haven’t chosen to blissfully ascend on the escalator), or kick our feet in joy or competition… ah the knees of the ‘weak knees’ fame, not to speak of the trembling knees, and the knees bent in supplication, bent in prayer… or the knee raised to hammer the privates of an abuser or harasser… kneed by the jolly secretary on the fourth floor who always wore her skirts above the knees.

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and still, we haven’t gotten to the rump, the bum, the buns, the butt… is that great organ there just for looks, or does it have some function? And what of the internal organs… those that are used incessantly and others that are barely noticed until they stumble and fail… the ones with charisma, and those modest seldom spoken of… not to speak of that molar you’ve been avoiding every time you chomp on Asiatic stir fried, adorned with peanuts… Nor have we mentioned the mind, which is a universe in itself, going on and on, carried by all those external and internal organs… a vast repository of sensory awareness, complicated beyond numbers by ideas, ideals, and attitudes… and the city… yes, the city is an allegory of all of that.

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a small neighborhood park

The city with its blood vessels and nerve endings, and bars and hamburger eateries, and gambling booths, and homes, and factories, and schools and churches, synagogues and mosques, and meeting houses, and court rooms… the gardening supply center across the street, the parks, the little islands of flowers in the middle of some streets, the grocery stores, the libraries… the elaborate storehouses for out of season and no longer wanted objects… the restaurants and hot dog stands… all of it built in the image of its creator… and I, walking through the streets of my neighborhood, the patchwork of repaired asphalt on asphalt, squares of soft tar dissolving into the ribbon of pavement weaving at times and winding at others, between the new homes and old… girded by bushes purchased for their ever-green reliability, or their occasional flowers… sometimes their fruit… finding neighborhoods within the neighborhood, like a story within the story… stopping to have lunch with a lady friend in an Italian restaurant that serves blond on blond pizza… no smoking is allowed, but they’ve got a little garden out back, where I could, if I wanted, poison myself for a few minutes with the out of favor smoke…

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gambling booth

A few trees here and there, some raising their lofty heads above the buildings but not so high as to interfere with the lofty imaginations of my fellow citizens as they amuse themselves with abstract images of the nature of paradox, and ideas of transcending the envelope in the amassing of money, or the expression of love. ‘Hi, Shimon’, says Yaron, when I walk in to buy a soup ladle from him… ‘still haven’t gotten the coffee grinder to work?’ he asks… He can’t help but laugh when he sees me, ‘cause I gave him an opportunity for his favorite joke when he offered me that cheap electric coffee grinder. I had asked him if he had anything more expensive. he said, ‘I can charge you more for it, if you like… but that’s the coffee grinder I’m selling today’.

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we have them too

The city, and everything in it, which is more than we’ll ever know… and this one in particular, which is as old as history itself, and filled with the wisdom and nonsense of generations upon generations… like the dust that has accumulated on the curtains by my window… generations of dust… all an allegory of the human being… and I, a character in a story within a story, conclude my day with the traditional meal in honor of the new year of the trees…

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a story within a story

Yes, that was yesterday… we in Jerusalem celebrate the new year of trees according to our ancient lunar calendar. And to celebrate that day, I was eating almonds mixed with raisins, as we do, here in Jerusalem, and watching the birds fly above, from tree to tree higher at times than the buildings… I followed their flight, and then lowered my head to the alley cat, sitting on the hood of a parked car with closed eyes… luxuriating in the warmth of that engine recently turned off… cats know a few things about parked cars… and I could only guess at his thoughts then and there. Was he sanctifying wholeness? Perhaps… for wholeness is one of the names of Jerusalem.

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sitting on the hood of a car, with eyes closed

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67 responses to “back in the city

  1. Beautifully expressed and captured. Especially the cat :) Thank you dear Shimon, have a nice weekend, and Happy New Year. Love, nia

  2. Yes, lovely description evoking the spirt of Jerusalem. I celebrated the holiday with one of my sons– we had oranges, dates, figs and persimmons and the kids sang Happy Birthday to the trees.

  3. Beautiful photos captured – and very well written… :-)

    Years ago I saw a man played piano with his toes, he was borned without arms (or they were small and useless) – very impressive and fascinating – if there is a will so… :-) :-)

    • Yes, what you say here is very important, ledrakenoir. We take what we have for granted… and think sometimes that there’s a ‘right way’ to do things. But not everyone has the same limbs and the same tools, and many of us do things differently, but still get fascinating results. Appreciate your input. And thanks for your kind words.

  4. I love the New Year of the Tress, if I had known yesterday I would have celebrated with you, I have many trees, or rather, I am the guardian of many trees,.
    I really enjoyed this post, the comparison of a body to a city was wonderful and I’m always up for a story within a story!xxx

    • Thank you so much, Dina. We who love nature… the trees, the animals, and sometimes even the stones that surround us… have less need for special days to remind us of the wonders of this world. I feel that we are often in harmony, in the appreciation of this great life. So sweet, your comment. xxx

  5. Such words you have for your city, and such a pleasure to read, Shimon. I love the idea of a New Year for trees…something to contemplate.

    • This is actually an ancient holiday for us. The children love eating the native fruit of our country on this day… and older people plant trees. Thanks very much for your comment, Scott.

  6. What an enjoyable post! Are you now settled back in your beloved Zion?

  7. How lovely that first photo, and all the images – actual and metaphorical – a praise song, a love letter, an epithalamion even for your reunion with your city.

    • Thank you very much for your beautiful comment, Tish. I have always felt that my relationship to this very special city of mine is something like a love story.

  8. Oh my gosh, the words that accompany the photographs are so precise…so brilliant! I treasure these accounts and marvel at your ability to write so eloquently. Thank you.

  9. Ah! Magnificent…I heard music all the way through, Shimon…thank you, thank you.

    • So glad that you were able to share the experience, Kitty. I know you’ve had other things on your mind lately, and loved your post about the passing of one so dear. Recommended it to two of my very dear friends.

  10. The Pizza Restaurant with blond on blond pizzas… is this a description of the bases?

    Perversely, I am interested in the gambling booth. Apart from lottery tickets, ( I assume) is there betting on football games and horse races? I should like to know more about the range of life and the variety of bets of a betting booth stop.

    What is the reason for the goats, (rams?) decorating the post?

    Your collared pigeon tells me that it stays in a different and ostensibly warmer continent than mine. Elements, probably very short spells of your winter might match up. The colour of the collar is just the same as the overall colour of the doves I saw in Yaffo. It tells me there is a lot of heat in its environment.

    Your physical allegory could roam anywhere, to the end of time.

    • Yes, they gamble on football games and other sports as well, but horse racing hasn’t yet become integrated into our society. I don’t gamble myself, but find it fascinating to observe. I’m not sure why they chose the goats as the subject of that particular sculpture. It’s sort of minimalistic, but it certainly speaks to me. As for the pigeon, I don’t think there’s a lot of heat here in Jerusalem, but it could be that the pigeons of the holy land share in the weather of different parts of our country. I know that some birds come from very far away… sometimes traveling from northern Europe and all the way to Africa, stopping with us along the way. But the pigeons… maybe they’re local. Thanks very much for your comment, menhir.

  11. What glorious blue skies in Jerusalem – there to greet you on your return. I so enjoyed both photos and musings. Thank you, Shimon!

  12. A New Year for Trees….that is a wonderful thing. I hope you hugged one in one of those neighborhoods within a neighborhood…those are the best kind.

    • Actually, we don’t hug trees, Angeline. I’ve heard of that, but never seen it. Here, songs are sung, and we eat the native fruits of our country, and plant trees on this occasion. Thanks for your comment.

  13. A wonderful vibrant post Shimon….I’ve never heard of this holiday. It should be everywhere! Now whenever I am eating nuts and fruit I will know I am celebrating the trees.

  14. The photo of the towering tall tree near made my breath catch in my throat; I have always been enamored of trees, especially when they flourish amongst the debris of humans. My heart sunk low on seeing the façade of the Golden Arches – must those yellow loops mar every landscape imaginable? And then, the cat warming itself on the hood of the car, and a smile caught the corners of my mouth again. Beautifully told and imaginatively captured with your lens, and, as always, a pleasure to visit. :-)

    • It is very encouraging to hear the lilt in your voice again. Walking in the neighborhood and being in the city, and also, your health improving … all steps in the evolution of a better temperament. Be well, Shimon.

      • Thank you very much, N. It’s very different living in the city. I do my shopping now, on foot… because it’s such a bother finding parking spaces. And carrying the groceries home is just one of the many differences. But you’re right; I do feel I’m getting back to my self… and it’s a very good feeling. And with the return of health, comes a better temperament.

    • It’s funny, N. I had quite a few pictures to share… and it was hard to decide which to post. And somehow, I insisted on that picture of MacDonald’s because it amuses me that they feel they have to be here too. And here they are… in a rather typical Jerusalem stone house, and a lot of our local people are very happy to have the opportunity to have the same experience that others, throughout the world enjoy. Thanks for your comment.

  15. Always such fun to read you Shimon. Welcome back to your new digs. I hope it is all satisfactory. As I recall, you don’t move homes very often. I giggled at the golden arches. I won’t even give them the capital letters. It Did make me wonder if their “meat” (I never am sure) is kosher. As always, looking forward to more flowing words from you.

    • You’re right, Bob. I haven’t moved homes that much in a long long time. And now, this is already the second time in a few months. It’s a strange experience, because I find that the environment can have a very strong influence on the life style too. There are some kosher McDonald’s here in Israel… and I hear rumors that there are also some non-kosher ones. Can’t say I’m an expert on the subject, though. Thanks very much for your comment.

  16. Eloquently described the city, Mr. Shimon! Thank you for sharing!

  17. Lovely description of home, Shimon. We are glad you are back in your comfort zone.

  18. Wow, what a beautiful post. The first and last images really float my boat. Poetic in nature, I found your words to be very soothing…..for me expressing the interconnectedness of all life. Thanks, Shimon.:)

    • I have really been enjoying your birthday posts, Janet. They move me. And you know, I agree with you on the interconnectedness of all life. All we have to do, is just stop fighting it, and go with the flow. Your comments are always a blessing for me. Thanks.

  19. A beautiful and engaging piece of writing Shimon. Enjoyed this piece very much!

  20. A charming allegory. I enjoyed the images too. The dove and the cat, of course, captured my fancy. I hope Nechama is getting on well in the new neighborhood! :-)

    • Ah, poor Nechama. She hasn’t rejoined me yet. She is presently staying with one of my sons, and his family. To her credit, she is adapting. She never liked children, and now she has seven that she has to deal with. I look forward to getting back together with her soon. Life isn’t the same without her. Thanks for your comment, George.

  21. This is a beautiful poem,Shimon….truly outstanding and moving.I like the pigeon photo very much.I see being in the city is affecting your mind and mood.

  22. When you describe the city as a living organism it reminds me of Peter Ackroyd’s biography of London. In your stories you often take us on a walk to places you love. I like being a flaneur when time allows, walking through cities. They are such fascinating repositories of humanity. Very lovely.

    • I’m unfamiliar with Peter Ackroyd’s biography of London. I’ll have to look that up. Thank you very much, Emily, for coming by. Though I’ve lived a lifetime in this city, coming back has been exciting for me… I suppose, like seeing a dear friend you’ve been away from for a while, you just want to hug and kiss him. Thanks for the comment.

  23. Please give my regards to the trees.

    A lovely piece of writing, Shimon.

  24. Beautiful images Shimon and your narrative really describes the beauty of a city I love so much. I’ll be in Israel in May for a cousins wedding and I hope to hop on a bus or train and spend a day in Jerusalem.

    • How wonderful that you’ll be visiting here soon, Edith. I’m sure you’ll find some great pictures. And how good to come for such a happy occasion. Hoping that you’ll make it to Jerusalem too. Best wishes, and thanks.

  25. That’s the best read of the day, by far, Shimon. Thank you.

  26. nice sunny pix… todah for dropping by my crossroads and have a great day! :) Mélanie – catlover…<3

  27. Referring to your beautiful poems,have you ever considered writing in a formal style; a sonnet would not be your thing but you may find it fascinating how a structure affects what you write.And though we all hope your blue mood has gone,I have studied the effects of writing and apparently structured writing has a positive effect on mind and mood but some forms of writing stir one up more.I put this here in case anyone else as well as you may be interested.People assume writing is good for you but it can put you in touch with forgotten or hidden emotions,
    Please don’t think I don’t like your poetry,I love it…

    • I know of your love of poetry, Katherine. And agree with you that the media used, and the form as well, influences the nature of the expression. Thank you for your comment.

  28. Your new neighborhood seems much more urban and I completely agree with the idea of a city being a living thing–it’s what I think is so great about other cities I’ve lived in. Perhaps each neighborhood is a different body part, and the broken down ones drag the whole city into the gutter. I definitely live in the arthritic knee or some necrotic toe over here. :/

    I finally laughed this week after seeing that McDonald’s and your funny comment, haha. Only in Israel would a fast food joint look like that. Keep enjoying your new surroundings, Shimon…
    Leah xx
    (I hope you had a nice Tu B’Shevat. I don’t think I’ve celebrated that since my pre-school days at the “J”, our version of the “Y” if you recall.)

    • Sometimes when we’re marching through the mud, the toes feel like they’ll never clean up again. But there’s usually rest and revitalization. When we had that snow storm, I remembered reading of how Napoleon’s soldiers wanted to just lie down in the snow and sleep till death relieved them of all pain and suffering. Thank you for your good wishes, Leah. Tu B’shvat was very beautiful here. Very good to hear from you Leah. Glad you enjoyed the humor in that McDonald’s shot.

  29. What a beautiful piece on the city, our bodies, and life itself, Shimon… such wonderful things to think about, especially how it is connected and repeating in larger ways. You could not have had a more perfect ending with that final photo. You know I love it! This post is one I will return to read again and again, it was excellent!

    • Very glad you enjoyed the post, Josie. And I know that we cat lovers see all the world reflected in feline sensibilities. Sometimes I feel that I’m annoying those who don’t appreciate cats that much. But at some point it all comes together anyway. Thanks for the comment; good to see you.

  30. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    You know what makes me smile about that pigeon looking into your window? It has no idea it has ended up in a photo and is seen across the world, specifically, by me sitting here in Australia! It’s just astonishing, don’t you think, Shimon?

    “the rump, the bum, the buns, the butt” – I don’t know why, that line just made me smile!

    Enjoyed this from toes to tip, Shimon :). Absolutely love the cat, as you’d know. And raisins & almonds, sitting there nibbling, I could so picture it. Love seeing photos by you.

    • Yes, you’re so right, Noeleen. I think of that myself sometimes, when I see the birds overhead. Wasn’t so long ago that we’d watch them come from northern Europe on their way to Africa… and I’d think, that bird sees more of the world than I do. But now there’s a bit of interchange in our roles. And a picture of a bird can take the image further than the bird can fly… and all in a few minutes… amazing, every way we look at it. Thanks.

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