coming home

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a bird on foot

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, when I should have been mourning my mother, my thoughts were distracted by air raid sirens, and rockets being shot at my country… and I didn’t really feel that I had the time or the inner space to deal with what was happening. And so, when all of that quieted down, I turned off the radio, and all the usual distractions… and just tried to collect myself. As many of my friends have mentioned, rituals help a person to deal with life-changing events. But I see rituals, like prayers, as similar to ‘training wheels’ on a bicycle. They can help you to avoid falling on your face. But ultimately, what is most important is to find your own balance. And once a person learns how to really ride a bike, those training wheels are more of a hindrance than an aid.

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looking out at the sea

The same, I believe, is true of prayer. We have prayers written down in the prayer books, and they can teach us to give form to our prayer. They can also unify us with our friends, when we pray as a congregation. I have nothing against them. On the contrary, I think they’re good. But ultimately, when a person calls out to his creator, he really wants to do more than send a form letter. The same is true for rituals. They teach us how to behave in concert with our community… manners and respect for our fellow man; how to sanctify our relationship to a day, or to another human being… but they can’t take the place of true personal commitment, and an awareness of our own feelings on the deepest level.

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the electric plant

When last Friday came along, and I realized that I hadn’t written anything that week, and sat down to write a post on this blog, I soon understood that I just wasn’t ready. The things that were on my mind, just weren’t the sort of things I wanted to share with my readers. So I decided to go off fishing. It was an analogy. In actual fact, I have never fished in my life. But I have accompanied friends on fishing trips many times. I just preferred not to kill a living creature if I didn’t have to. But I did eat the fish that they caught. And when I think about photography or painting, I liken it in my mind to fishing. Unlike the hunter, I don’t go after my prey. I just throw my line or net into the waters, and gratefully accept what came along… or threw it back into the water.

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the inside market

I like to write when there is nothing else I’d rather do… when the words are begging to come out… when they’re threatening me, if you don’t write this soon you’ll forget what you meant to say… That is when I like to write. Or take a picture… it’s the same thing. I don’t like doing anything creative out of a sense of obligation… and on the whole, I’m a very lucky guy. Most of my life, I’ve enjoyed whatever I did. So I decided to forget about writing for the time being, and just take my camera, and go to the places I most enjoy, and see what would happen.

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a well behaved dog

What happened, was an endless chain of memories that went through my head, including things that I didn’t even know I’d remembered. I’m not sure if all these memories were connected really, with the death of my mother… but they were certainly connected with my relationship to myself, and were part of moving on from one chapter to another. As the week went by, I found more and more that brought me happiness and reminded me of my place in this world, despite the fact that most of the memories were somewhat disturbing. Yesterday, I went off with my dear friend Noga, to visit the sea. That is a place that always offers me comfort, and helps me find a good perspective on life. I don’t go to get a suntan, or to take a swim. I go to visit; to smell the salt water, and hear the roar of the waves, and gaze out at the infinite. So it really didn’t matter that there was a light rain. But even when there wasn’t rain, there was a heavy mist that left droplets on my eye glasses, making it difficult for me to see… and after a while, I realized that there was the same problem with the camera lens. It was limiting. But still it was a great pleasure.

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Yizhar and Noga on the promenade

I went with my dear friend Noga, and we met with Yizhar… and there was some pleasant conversation and a visit to the ‘inside’ marketplace at the Tel Aviv harbor, which was full of people… even a couple of rather attractive and well behaved dogs, and by the time we were back in the car and on our way home, I was more relaxed than I had been in a long time, and had a sense of well being. So much so, that I turned on the car radio to hear the news. What a shock. Among a long list of items that were reported, including the visit of our prime minister to Germany, there was mention of the fact that Amir Perez had formally handed in his resignation from Parliament.

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the promenade by the sea

Now he isn’t that important to me as a member of parliament. But he was just recently voted in to the number three spot in the labor party, and it seemed completely unreasonable that he would resign now, just before the national elections, which are supposed to take place in another month and a half. I went looking for another station, but no one else was mentioning it. It gathered that this was already old news. Yet it really awoke my curiosity. Back at home, with the help of the internet, I was able to read the whole story. It turned out that this man, who had only a few years ago, had been the head of the party, was offended by the fact that he had less influence than he used to have. And that the present party chief hadn’t given him the sort of respect he thought he deserved, and had switched parties on the last day on which the political parties present their roster of candidates for parliament before the next election.

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the Tel Aviv harbor

I have been proud in the past of our representative democracy here in Israel. Though I didn’t think it was perfect, I did think it worked very well most of the time, and that it was the best system when compared to all the other alternatives. But as we approach this coming election, it’s seems as if politics has become more like a ‘reality’ show on TV than a true representation of the will of the people. Not that I know much about reality programs. I have only watched one episode, of something called ‘survival’, and it seemed infantile to me, at the time. But I had that impression, and I’ve heard a lot about them, because they’re quite popular here. And now, thinking about what has happened as we’ve been approaching our coming election, I have the strong feeling that something has really broken down in the political arena. My first thought, was to write a humorous piece about politics here, but then I realized that most of my readers aren’t familiar enough with our political system to appreciate something like that… still, it was a sign that I was moving from personal ruminations to thoughts about the world.

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62 responses to “coming home

  1. A beautiful piece … as you write, Shimon … I can feel your journey through pain of loss, moving past the ritual and prayers to that space where one can simply submit and listen. And then that Cosmic Hand does reach out and strews little vignettes and memories before us. We can pick them up and examine them and when we do, then the healing process begins.

    And when we return to daily life … when we turn on the News and react to an event … then we begin to step back into our daily life. Slowly but surely.

    Shalom and Namaste

    • Thank you so much, Nikki. What you write is so true… What is most important, of course, is life itself… and we don’t want to get stuck in the memories… but they are good for the healing… a bit like a scab on our skin, made of our own blood. Thank you for your comment, and your good wishes. Namaste and Shalom.

  2. Your post reminded me so much of a story in our New Testament, how, after the death of Christ, his follower Simon Peter who had originally been a fisherman said to the others ‘I’m going fishing’. It’s as if, battered and bruised by recent events, he went back to something familiar for comfort and healing. Giving ourselves space is such an important part of grieving, and so few of us recognise its imperative. When we do come back to what passes for ‘normal’ life, although at first it feels very abnormal because our personal universe has changed, but daily life has not, we see it with new eyes, a sharpened sensitivity perhaps, with different norms and priorities.

    I pray you will find continued blessing, comfort and healing day by day, Shimon.

    • I can well understand, Gillyk, how you would think of that story, and it certainly applies. When we are at our best… when we have inspiration in our heart… we can go out and give to others, as the followers of Christ probably did all the time. But when you’re hurting, it’s best to go back to one’s craft… and to the simplicities of life, and to find healing and comfort. I am grateful that the healing has begun, and thank you for the comfort of friendship. Wishing you very good days, and a very sweet holiday ahead.

  3. I grew up in the Christian Methodist Church which had a simple, basic format for its services, with little ritual. I then married the daughter of an Anglican priest and began to love the ritual and prayers of that church. I do think that they provide a ‘door’ into personal prayer and a viewpoint into heaven. Last year I took my choir to a little village church in the Highlands of Scotland to sing the service of Evensong. It has a strict format of prayers, hymns, readings and is a very gentle introduction to the night. But we then had to return by car over two hours to the bustle of our normal life.. But that ‘normal’ life will never be the same. We saw a glimpse of the hereafter in that little church. We are awaiting the death of my wife’s brother, but my spirit is still lightened and encouraged from that service. We will have darkness, but there will be light for all of us. I wish for you that the darkness is not too long or deep.

    • Thank you very much, Harry, for coming by and sharing with me this experience of inspiration. It is these experiences that stay with us for much longer than we would imagine, that do give shape to our understanding of those things which are beyond us. Reading your words, I was reminded of a similarly beautiful experience I had almost fifty years ago. And has stayed in the background of my mind… but not been forgotten. And I can happily tell you, that the darkness this time is already making way for the light, and I’m feeling much better. Always enjoy your visits.

  4. Wonderful post Shimon. We each, in out own way, have to “just go fishing”. Time to be introspective, time to be with close friends that we can relay on is sometimes what the soul needs.

  5. welcome back Shimon , glad to see you…love the photos and happy to read you didn’t catch the fish 🙂

  6. I am glad you are beginning to recover from the loss of your mother. It might be a slow process, but you’ll get there in the end: we all do.
    As for fishing (metaphorically or not), my husband goes fishing during all our holidays and whenever he can here at home, but he never kills anything he catches. Hobby Fishermen here always put their catch back in the water: it is just a relaxing pastime, an excuse to be alone with your thoughts and find inner peace.

    Keep writing: I love your blogs.

    • Fortunately, it’s not so slow, Fatima. Once the process starts, you realize that it’s only a matter of time, and that makes it much easier. This business of hobby fishermen sounds very interesting. I heard about it first from my daughter, who saw it with her own eyes when she was traveling abroad. I like the idea… but prefer to do it with my camera. Thank you very much for your sweet words.

  7. You write with such grace Shimon..I feel your transition from inward to external, I can smell the ocean and hear the waves greeting the shore. I sense that moment of awareness when one realizes that breathing is easier and the world is calling to return. It is good to ‘hear’ from you.

  8. I think I’m getting to know you quite well now Shimon. When I read you were going fishing, I immediately thought you were going to go out and about and see what came of it, What you described here is what I thought you would do. I’m glad you are feeling happy again. What beautiful pictures, I especially like that poodle dog. xxxxx

    • Thank you so much, Dina. I saw a number of very nice dogs in the market… and no cats. Here in Jerusalem, we have cats roaming around the marketplace, and they sometimes enjoy a bit of generosity from the vendors… I appreciate your kind words, and am feeling much better now.

  9. Compelling, as always, Shimon…and comforting to see our similarities in thought, even though we’re separated by continents and oceans and have different world views…maybe testimony to a deeper relationship as living beings. Thank you.

    • What you say, Scott, is something I’ve thought about after getting into the habit of reading blogs. It is encouraging to realize that even in a world quite different from ours, people have many of the same concerns and questions. It’s been a real pleasure getting to know you.

      • It is encouraging, Shimon…and it has truly been a pleasure getting to know you, as well…sitting at your table, walking your streets…listening to your words….

  10. The first picture is so cute! What a funny bird 🙂

    • I agree, ks3nia. I have no idea what that bird is called, even in my own language, which is Hebrew… but I was hoping that someone would inform me, if I posted her here.

  11. What a wonderful post. You took me through your journey so deeply, and the photos brought me back to my beloved home. I did understand the phrase “going fishing” as you meant it, as I was positive that you don’t fish. I did understand the need for your quiet introspection, and I was not sure how and what you did, but I felt it across the many miles. And of course, ending with Israeli politics is the best indication that you’re back:)
    Your eloquent description of rituals and prayer touched my heart.

    • I’m so glad that these pictures brought back familiar memories, Rachel. Glad too, that we are getting to know one another. As for Israeli politics, I’m still disgusted… but not listening to it much. As you know, it’s holiday time. My best wishes to you and yours.

  12. For some reason, the first picture brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me of the people who don’t sit on the bench anymore.

    • I have some good news for you, regarding the Tel Aviv harbor, in any case… after years of slow dilapidation, it’s become a very busy and popular place for people to get together and enjoy themselves. And the benches are often occupied. On that particular day, because of the cold and a drizzle, there weren’t that many people out… but I’ve seen the benches well used.

  13. I haven’t poured my first coffee yet, Shimon…and your words have reached into me. What a profound writer. Here, In Calgary, Alberta, Canada…I feel very close to you. This is what words do! I wish you peace in a time of great difficulty.

  14. welcome back, sir. i remember feeling as if i should write or post something every day, and as anyone could imagine, that practice is likely to dilute one’s results.

    question for you – when you wrote about the market place, you used quotes around ‘inside’ market place. was that simply to indicate that there is both an outdoor and an indoor market, or does that mean something else? for example, in america, the term “inside” could mean something that is done secretly or even in a criminal way. i’m not trying to suggest that you were participating in something criminal, of course not. i’m just wondering if there is extra meaning behind the quotes.

    • Yes, Rich. Sometimes, when we write professionally, as I have done in the past, we have to force ourselves. But I always see blog posts as something like a letter to a friend. As for my emphasis of ‘inside’, it is just that here in Israel. Most of the market places are outdoors… and the supermarkets provide for indoor shopping. But this is exceptional. It is run by individual vendors like our standard market places, but is all indoors. I wouldn’t be offended by the suggestion that I participated in something criminal… though I have to admit, that this time, when I had a criminal urge (to have a smoke), I went back outdoors to satisfy my deviancy. Always good to hear from you.

      • let me clarify about the criminal part. “inside” has various meanings in that context. for example, there are markets here, sometimes called “flea markets” that sell things without any of the sale going to the government in the form of taxes. technically that’s criminal, but nobody cares much. another “inside” is when a store gets robbed, but it was done by an employee who knew how to breach security. much more criminal of course than just skipping taxes.

        i should have been more clear in my question. sorry.

        • Thank you for your explanations… actually, I have a certain tolerance for illegal activity, as long as it doesn’t hurt the next guy. I never minded paying my taxes, even though they were higher in my country than in the US. Legality can be a very complicated issue. I don’t have that much sympathy for those who want to get something for nothing.

  15. Shimon – Of course, it’s good to see you reflecting and dealing in your own way. That’s the only right way.

    And it’s wonderful to see a photo of your dear friend Noga. Such a gorgeous, gracious lady.

    We wish you well!

    • Yes, Bill… there are always those moments when life gets the better of us… and then we have to find a way to deal with it. I agree with your appraisal of Noga completely, and she sends you her regards. Thanks for the good wishes.

  16. So lovely, Shimon, and written with such clarity and wonderful, adept imagery. Thank you. The photographs, the lengths of boardwalk, the white city in the distance, and the beautiful blue sea…so peaceful to enter. It is so good to read of your returning peace and the pieces of your life falling back into positions that give you a groundedness and joyful sense of “your place in the world.” And I loved your reflection that form letters are not your preference when communicating with your Creator…probably because I am in agreement with you. I go fishing with my camera, writing and art every time I engage with them…and always find/meet more of myself and my God when I do…gentle peace to your journey.

    Politics everywhere has lost so much of its intellect, honor and decorum…I hope this will change.

    • So glad that you enjoyed the post, Catherine. Slowly but surely, things are falling into place, as you said… and here it is… already a holiday time… and I have grandchildren visiting. It doesn’t surprise me that we can agree on religious matters. As for politics, I think they’re an indication of the health of society… and this situation is making me uncomfortable… but I have hope.

  17. This was an enjoyable piece to read Shimon. Your thoughts on politics struck a chord. In the UK we have politicians taking part in reality tv shows if you can believe that. Parliament is certainly not what it was here either. The Blair years did so much damage, some of which we’re only just learning. Blair opened the door for career politicians. They’re not in it for what they believe in rather, it’s a very well paid job with massive scope to exercise the ego. They no longer resign even if they’re caught fiddling their expenses which many of them were here recently. They take us for idiots and lie constantly. A national election recently had a 15% turnout, in some areas as low as 5. This galvanised the politicians because their one, overriding concern is re-election. But this is how low the electorate’s regard for politicians has fallen. When the politicians are behaving so outrageously that nobody can be bothered to turn out and vote, democracy has failed. It is a huge worry.

    • It’s strange, Chillbrook, how we get the feeling we know some of these characters from seeing them interviewed or appearing on the TV. I felt that Blair was a very likeable chap on TV… but later read some things that made me wonder… When I was a young man, I read ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’, and I remember thinking, I will never see such things in my own life… but life goes on… It seems to me that politics is a rather accurate indication of the level of decadence in society, and I’m very concerned about some of the things I see. There are some positive signs in this generation… there is the hope that the new technology will provide more access to widespread information. I do have hopes. But I worry too.

  18. Another tender read Shimon. So beautifully conceived. I so appreciate what, and the manner in which, you share your story with us. It’s a privilege to sit down in front of your writing.

  19. First, welcome back. You WERE missed. I was bit concerned over your note, “Ill be back”. And that was a bit at the end of rocketry and other insanities goiing on over there. For now, I’m just happy you are still around!

    • Sorry that I caused you worry, Bob. Actually, it was the combination of the death of my mother, and the rocket attacks on my country that kind of got me down. But after turning off radio and TV, and just getting back to normal life… and then the trip to the sea, I believe I’m pretty much back to normal. Always good to hear from you.

  20. In the wisdom that comes with years, you have followed your own heart and soul to the right ways and places to properly mourn for your mother and to help find solace. Your photographs are beautiful, as always. The ocean washes away all irritations. You said many good things in this post, but the one I liked best because of how you stated it, and will carry with me is “But ultimately, when a person calls out to his creator, he really wants to do more than send a form letter.” That made me smile in acknowledgement of the difference between formal prayer and informal personal prayer. I agree there is a place for both, but I am saddened for people who are unfamiliar with the latter, it is then that the heart speaks most clearly.

    • I’m very glad you enjoyed my post. One of the amazing things about getting to know someone from another culture, is that there are certain attitudes and concepts that we find we have in common… made all the more powerful because there are other things that remain completely different… sometimes, so different, that they are really hard to understand. Patience, respect and tolerance do help a lot though, when you’re trying to learn the mentality of another culture. Thank you, Josie, for your comment.

  21. Your point on ritual was well-made. Ritual can be a beautiful thing, and can reinforce teachings. But at the same time, when those teachings become lost in the pomp and ceremony, those rituals are, if not hollow, then at the very least adulterated.

    And I agree that a spiritual form-letter is probably not the best means to attract the attention of the Almighty.

  22. Hi SHimon. I”m a bit shocked at this post as I don’t recall you writing of politics in the past. Perhaps I haven’t known you long enough. Poitics does little more than rouse my anger. And since I’m presentely in a serious problem. I’ll just say thanks for keeping my mind alive.

    • You’re right, Bob… I don’t write about politics often… but I do believe that politicians have an obligation and a responsibility to the general public, and am not willing to excuse them all with a sweeping statement such as ‘politics are corrupt’ or something like that. I am almost always part of a minority when it comes to politics… but I do believe that those who administer the state are ‘civil servants’. Hope your situation gets better soon.

  23. It’s so good to hear about and see your wanderings and musings Shimon. As usual your analogies delight me – riding a bike and so on, perfectly pitched. But it was your words “I go to visit; to smell the salt water, and hear the roar of the waves, and gaze out at the infinite” that truly struck a chord, I appreciate fully that sense of wandering out onto a promenade to stroll, to feel the wind to hear the sea and stare out on a seemingly endless horizon – it relaxes me no end, and repeatedly so.
    And as you say you are stepping back into “the world” whatever that may be, it’s a good sign.

    • Thank you very much Claire. I get the impression that you know well the comfort of the sea, and how it helps to gain perspective… and yes, I seem to be returning to my world, which is a very good sign.

  24. Hello Shimon. As always a most enjoyable glimpse into your life. I appreciate how you manage to put so much into a piece of writing and carry your reader along. You certainly didn’t linger… on loss, ritual, or prayer, fishing, writing, a pleasant walk or even politics… but it was all there in the weave. Be well Shimon.

    Chris

    • I’m glad that you enjoyed the post, Chris, and got a picture of what my life is like. It seems that the exposure on the internet is so massive, that many of us become shy, in one way or another… I often wonder about some of the people I follow… wanting to know better just whom they are. Thank you very much for your comment.

  25. Dear Shimon, the notification of this post title on my mail directed me completely elsewhere and I have only just found this by chance when coming to visit your most recent post so this comment is very tardy….

    Life is such a strange old thing, I am glad you have had time for reflection and healing and to spend time with dear friends and go to places that touch you in a helpful way.

    Wishing you all the best as ever…

    • Thank you very much, Rosie for letting me know about this strange quirk in the notification. I got some other mails, complaining… but it was your comment that finally made me realize what was happening. And when I tried to fix it, I didn’t succeed at once. Life is strange… I agree… and I’ve always found that such troubles happen (like with the notification), when I’m not entirely myself… I worry most about accidents… and have the greatest need for friends. Thanks for your help.

  26. I love fishing, even if I don’t catch anything. I think of it as a contemplative hobby, when I quiet myself and just watch and wait. I’m glad you had time to process your grief. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • It’s been an interesting time… and though I thought I was ready for it, I had quite a few surprises. The most striking, was a string of un-summoned memories that urged me to consider and reconsider life itself. Thank you for joining me, yearstricken.

  27. Dear Shimon,
    I don’t know how I missed this post. It is so interesting to follow your thoughts from one arena to the next. I loved what you said about ritual and prayer, and fishing, and politics. What I felt, above all, was gladness that you been able to take your thoughts back out into the larger world. I know some part of ourselves never stops grieving for our loved ones, but it is a relief from that pain to look out at the larger world.

    • Thank you very much, Naomi. I’m glad you missed the post, and only commented on it now. Because now, after a year, I can tell you that I’ve really stopped grieving. For a while there, I missed her terribly. But after a few months I went back to the regular day to day occupations and obligations. And then, at some point, I realized that she was still with me. That I could have been aware of her presence through it all. But that by mourning her loss, I had lost touch with her. And that when I’d grown quiet, I had become sensitive to her presence again. Now, she’s along for the ride… inside of me.

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