This is the end of the second week that I’ve been living away from home, in exile, so to speak… not wanting to watch the whole process of the selling of my home, and taking it apart, and the packing… all that is part of moving from one place to another. The first thing you might notice about that, is that I’m a very self indulgent person… one who chooses what he wants to do, and what he doesn’t, and avoids some of the chores that everyone else would feel obligated to do himself. Of course, it would be impossible for many others to do what I’m doing. But I’m fortunate in having friends who are willing to suffer my eccentric behavior. And I can only hope that I amuse them enough in ‘normal’ times to make up for my selfishness at times like these.
And living here in the home of my dear friend, Janne, I have been slowly adjusting to a slightly different existence from my usual, though trying to keep up with those things I usually do. My walks have been longer, because I’m in a new environment, and seeing new sights I’m not used to. I spend time looking at the trees and the vegetation, examining the houses and the streets of this new neighborhood, lingering at the corner market, checking out what they have to sell. I explored a very beautiful park the other day. I don’t know if it’s the only one here. There may be others… and introduced myself to the local cats.
In fact, I had two very interesting meetings with local people the other day. There was a woman who approached me while I was at the park. She spoke to me hesitantly, telling me that she thought we might have a common interest. I encouraged her, waiting to hear what was on her mind. She mentioned that she noticed I had a camera. Yes, I said. I was a photographer. And she had observed, she said, that I had taken some pictures of the cats in the park. Quite true, I agreed, still puzzled about her interest. I wondered if she wanted me to do a portrait of her pet cat… But then all was revealed. She explained that she had written a number of letters to the town council, complaining that there were too many cats in the village. Some of them were even so rude as relieve themselves in the public park, while others were unembarrassed to make love noisily in the middle of the night, waking up sleeping citizens with their catcalls. Unfortunately, she had received no replies from the city council. But seeing me here… a man she was unfamiliar with, watching the cats… and even photographing them… she couldn’t help but think, that just maybe, the town council had sent me to deal with the problem. Was it true? Was I gathering the needed evidence so that these lousy cats could be eradicated? Or at least banished from the town?
With the greatest possible tact, I explained to her that I was a visitor here… staying with a friend, and getting the feel of her wonderful town. And that as a matter of fact, my photographing the cats was motivated by a sincere admiration and affinity for cats. Where did I come from, she asked, a look of sadness on her face. I come from Jerusalem, I said, and as you probably know, I continue, the emblem of our city is the lion of Judah, and these cats remind me of that regal lion. Oh, she said, with a disappointed sigh… If only you would take all of our cats back with you, when you return to your Jerusalem. But she was nice enough to wish me a very pleasant stay in her town, nodding her head all the while, as if this disappointment was a little hard for her to take. We parted in a friendly way.
And the thought that has been occupying my mind today, is that I came here to this village to escape a situation that was unbearable for me. I was uprooted from my familiar surroundings, from my books and tools and conveniences. But what I found was a beautiful and intensive experience of life. Just a short while ago we celebrated the holiday of tabernacles, and had to move out of our homes for a week to fulfill the traditional demands of that holiday… in order to be reminded that our own lives and circumstances aren’t permanent. And now, unexpectedly, I’m reliving that experience in real time. And it isn’t just for a week. I don’t know how long this process will take. But it seems a test of all we’ve learned from that traditional holiday. My ability to adjust to a different environment, and to make the most of life even when things don’t go the way I’m used to… that’s the test. And my objective, of course, should be to enjoy life as much as possible during this time. Not to wait till the temporary inconvenience is over. But to immerse myself completely in the experience. And to relish every moment… the good and the bad… because the clock is ticking, and we’ll will never have these moments again. Life is going by.
So I’m living my life as best I can. Doing the things I love to do. I’ve been playing with the subtleties of color, and doing some photography using a wide 16:9 format. It’s both interesting and challenging, and distracts me from the memories and emotions related to the move. As I approach the Sabbath, I welcome the added joy of a day set apart, in which we celebrate the interwoven joy of the spiritual and material, and rest from our work, whatever it may be.