For many here in Jerusalem, autumn begins with the bloom of the squill, one of our favorite wild flowers, which appears miraculously on the hills surrounding our city, and between our homes and business establishments.
When I was a young man, traveling and learning about the world of other peoples and nations, far away from my own… I’d come upon a new city or town unknown to me… I would walk for hours, getting to know the place by foot. My pleasure back then, was visiting the alleys and the back streets, the parks and the libraries, the bars and the night clubs, where I met the local people and listened to their music.
As I mentioned a while back, my dear friend Chana recently moved back to Jerusalem, back from the pastoral village where I was staying with her during the grand move. She set up her new home in Talpiot, where I used to live some fifty years ago. And in recent weeks I’ve been walking around the neighborhood, rediscovering the area from a new perspective, and after the changes of a half a century. I’ve met some very gracious and interesting human beings, and a lot of fascinating animals.
I had the pleasure of discovering that there’s a whole colony of brightly colored parrots who’ve made their home in our city, and what a surprise it was to see them sitting as a group in a number of trees close to her home, speaking in tongues and sounding like no other birds I’ve known. No photos yet, but I’m sure I’ll capture them eventually.
The dominant birds in this neighborhood are the crows. You can see them everywhere. The doves, who are just as common, give them due respect. They fear the crows who are smarter than them and more aggressive. A couple of weeks ago, I was walking through an area of luscious green vegetation between two blocks of houses, where there are some installations meant for children’s play, and a few benches most appropriate for a read outside when a city dweller such as I has spent too much time closed in.
I saw three cats eating cat food that had been placed on the pavement surrounding the slide and the locomotive, looking as if it had been built of Lego blocks and meant for play. The cat food had been placed in neat piles, and the cats seemed quite satisfied with the offering. But there were three crows perched on a railing above, watching every move of the cats. I found a good place on a nearby bench and watched them… wondering if the crows were planning to attack the cats. They enjoyed their food and paid no attention to the birds above them. Eventually, when the cats were sated, they left some of the food behind as they went off to take a leisurely walk along the path by which I had arrived. Then the crows descended, joined by friends and relatives, to finish off the repast.
Later that day… I went out with Chana to have pizza at a neighborhood diner, next to a local grocery store. There were just two men sitting at a table in the cold night… we took another. One of the men noticed I was photographing, and asked why. We got into a conversation, and after a while he pulled an old sheet of paper out of his pocket, folded and worn. He gave it to us to read. It was poetry, well metered and carefully rhymed. A song commemorating wasted youth. After we praised it, we were allowed to read another. This, a love poem hinting unrequited love. Your writing?, I asked. Yes, he said… that’s my name on the bottom line.
Two women walked by with a dog. The younger of the two men exchanged a few words with them. But they didn’t linger. The dog was impatient. He had places to go… things to see… We too, left after a while. It had been a good dinner, and another taste of the neighborhood.