Autumn in Talpiot

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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65 responses to “Autumn in Talpiot

  1. Good morning Shimon….a lovely read and interesting about the colourful parrots. About 20 years ago colourful parrots arrived in London and now they are all over the place. No ones quite sure what brought them here, but clearly they have found london to be a good home for them.
    Continue to enjoy your day and life – and of course hugs for Nechama:) Janet. xx

    • Thank you very much, Janet. Yes, globalization is not for humans alone. Step by step, the great big world is turning into one village. And isn’t it fantastic… that when we open our eyes, we always see something new? i think of you almost every day, because all of a sudden I get visits from hummingbirds. It’s almost as if you sent them. xxx

  2. You don’t have a ‘LIKE’ button! And I very much like this post and the photos. So very peaceful. The cats and birds very happily co-exist. How wonderful is that?

    • Thanks so much Loisa. Glad you came by. I do get likes… though I don’t know exactly how people do it. And those that I get, I don’t care to wear on my sleeve. But if this reluctance induced you to speak up, all the better. Very glad to meet you. And yes, there are some unexpected delights in nature.

  3. Very nice, Shimon…there is sweetness in the calming narrative. Thank you.

  4. Hello Shimon, So good to hear that you are taking in some enjoyable and pleasant sights and experiences. I continue to watch the birds feeding off the sunflowers. I am learning from them. They persevere and and don’t let the rain or wind deter them singing their songs and going on with their day. They inspire me to always keep a song in my heart no matter what..Thank you for sharing, and that wild flower is a beauty…

    • That’s the best inspiration there is, Mother Hen. Just keep singing, and have a glance at the sunflowers frequently. I love them too. It is a great pleasure to share and enjoy the company of like minded folks. Thanks so much for coming by.

  5. I love the squill, Shimon. What a beautiful and exotic flower! I love your posts about life in Jerusalem and this one was not exception. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m so glad to see your weekly posts again. Have a wonderful weekend!

    • Thanks Cathy. It’s been a little hard to get back into the routine… but I’m beginning to feel connected again.We’re getting a first taste of winter these days, with cold and rain. And it reminds me that there is an order to this world that is greater than the affairs of man. So glad to see you.

  6. What a lovely snapshot (pics and words) of the day. We’ve a few crows but more pigeons. We also feed our feral cats. I call them our self-moving lawn ornaments. I’ve a favorite bakery I visit and chat with those who work there, along with some of the patrons. It’s the only place we see each other, and they make my life richer. Thank you, Shimon, for making my life richer, too.

    • Yes Judy, it’s those visits with strangers… and sometimes with the occasional animal that comes by or greets us along the path, that reminds us of a world far greater and richer than what we might think about, if we only worry about our own chores and business. I do appreciate your coming by, and enjoy your comments always.

  7. I disabled the ‘like button’ on my posting preferences, did you? I much prefer someone calling in and just saying something. Even if it is to say they wanted to click a button. Leaving a personal comment is a positive manner in which to intercommunicate in this neighbourhood of Shimon @Wordpress and the action is desirous to most of us I believe. It’s like wandering around the nooks and crannies of place, exploring and getting to know it and some of the people, just like you did and do.

    It must be really interesting re-acquainting yourself with Talpiot and its variety of residents, in its current guise. I must say, I did wonder what the cat was doing munching from a wee pile of dried food on the pavement. Do the same people leave food out for pigeons do you think? It would be paradoxical in a way, if they did.

    • Yes, Menhir. I removed the like button from my blog page. But some people seem to still send me likes, and WP notifies me. When someone likes me, I take it to heart and appreciate it, but it’s not something I would want to show. I do enjoy hearing from my readers and friends, though.

      And yes, there are many fine people here who share with the living creatures around. It really improves the general mood, and I think it also influences relations between people here as well. I don’t see it as paradoxical really. It is our nature to love and appreciate many living creatures, even if some of them eat others. In my younger days, when I still ate lamb chops, I would love associating with sheep as well. Thanks for the comment.

  8. How lovely Shimon. I was very startled one afternoon walking on Hamstead Heath in London to see a flash of blue and red and a strange call I’d never heard before. I then heard another and saw another flash of blue and red through the trees. I really didn’t know what I was seeing and hearing. Sometime later I saw an item on the BBC about parrots that had been released or had escaped, making their home in the woods on the Heath. Their numbers have been increasing apparently and the mystery was solved. It seems these birds are infinitely adaptable.
    A very enjoyable read as ever Shimon!

    • We have a lot of birds here in Israel… many of which migrate through our country, and enjoy the plentiful food here. But parrots are a type that I only saw very rarely in cages. So it was a great surprise seeing them move about freely as a group. They are quite vocal, and seem to have adapted very well. It’s really an unexpected addition to the wonders of looking at nature. Thanks, Chillbrook.

  9. Thanks for the tour! We look forward to seeing those parrots 🙂

  10. It is always welcome to hear your voice. Thank you for sharing some of your observations as you made you way among familiar, yet unknown, territory. No surprise that your eye might light on some feral cats, the crows, and the colorful parrots.

    I knew someone once that had a very strong distaste for crows. He called them flying catfish (the bottom-feeders of the sky). Perhaps his opinion had been shaped by the fact that a crow had once left a rather large offering on his bald head. Let’s just say he was unforgiving. 🙂

    Love how you made pleasant conversation with the men at the pizzeria, and in doing so, he felt compelled to share some of his poetry. It is easy to forget that the people at our elbow also have hopes and dreams, and a creative spirit that searches for a way to be expressed. Poetry, photography, writing, music, dance, needle crafts, pottery – the list is as endless as the number of people on the planet.

    I happened to recently meet someone who embroiders mini-landscapes onto the pockets of her aprons, and while we were chatting, she mentioned that she also makes wind chimes from broken twigs, twine, and old silverware. She flattens out the silverware with a rolling device originally intended to make pasta, (that has been modified with heavier drums and very heavy-duty gears). Once she gets the pieces flattened out to her liking, she shapes them into objects such as hummingbirds or flowers, and pierces the shape with an old ice pick, allowing them to be strung together with twine, so that they will tinkle in the wind and make beautiful music.

    Her face became very animated as she spoke of her wind chime creations. This entire conversation took place while we were waiting in line together, and even though I usually spend the time with my nose in a book (or sometimes with the Kindle my sister gifted to me), this time, I actually struck up a conversation, and found out a few surprising things about the woman waiting next to me in line. She caught my attention because she was tediously embroidering a tiny landscape onto an apron, all while peering intently through the eyeglasses tipped across her nose, and then it turns out that embroidering landscapes isn’t her only creative outlet. You just never know who you are sharing space with on this planet.

    Adored the photo of the squill. Such a lovely and vibrant white, with the touches of bright green. Tall and regal, reaching up towards the sun. Thank you for sharing that bit of beauty with us, and for sharing your voice, and for sharing your observations on your recent visit to Talpiot. As always, it is so good to hear from you. Sending an extra scritch to Nechama, and hoping she finds a lovely spot in the sun to stretch out and relax, and enjoy the day. 🙂

    • Actually, I’ve met quite some people who don’t care much for crows. Never understood it, because they seem to be very intelligent birds. It used to be that the arts were only for the privileged few. I remember, not so long ago, when people used to call my office and make an appointment for me to photograph their family. Now everyone has a camera in his or her telephone, and the need for an old fashioned photographer is even less apparent than the need for someone to shoe a horse. At the same time, though, many people who might have worked in a factory in the past, or as a carpenter or a mechanic without ever thinking of artistic expression. Today, almost everyone who has a moment of inspiration is unafraid to express it. And I see this as the world getting better! A reason to smile, despite all the things that can be very discouraging. Thanks for the scritch for Nechama. She’s been feeling a little down lately because of the rain. It takes some of the joy out of going out these days, and I think she knows that winter is coming. But she’ll find something good about it pretty soon, I’m sure.

  11. Awww, what a beautiful post Shimon, this is so moving in so many gentle ways.
    I love Talpoit, and it must be interesting to re-visit, places change so fast don’t they? It must be good to have Chana a little closer, she is such a good friend to you.
    I loved the fact that somebody is feeding the street cats, and the pic of the crows watching and waiting to make their move had me smiling….and what marvelous cats and crows they are too! I have never seen a black and white crow before, ours are always black.
    I loved the story about the poet…..for some reason I found it a little sad, I’m not sure why, maybe because he carries his poems folded and worn in his pocket, when they should be somewhere where people can read them, words should always be heard I think. I’m glad he had you two for an audience, you probably made his day.

    • Yes, things are always changing, and it seems the changes are coming faster and faster. But what was encouraging, was that the most characteristic feature of the neighborhood has stayed the same. And that is that there are a lot of trees and greenery between the houses, and I lover that aspect. It’s also very good having Chana in the city, and makes it very easy for us to get together, Most of the crows here are black and gray, and very intelligent. They are very jealous about territory. Just today, while on my walk, I watched a crow push an eagle out of his territorial piece of sky. As for the poet, I can understand your feeling of sadness, but meeting with him, I had the feeling that he was proud of his work, and that was what mattered, and that our enjoyment was enough for him on that day.Thank you so much for your comment, Dina. xxx

  12. Oh….I forgot to say that I LOVE the squill, what a beauty!xxx

    • I love them too. But unfortunately, they come for a very short time. Three or four weeks and then they’re gone. We had quite a bit of rain this week, and this morning I saw the stalks without the flowers… they had been and gone.

  13. If I’m seeing correctly you have a photo of some (what I know as), magpies. Also a corvid as is the crows. Crows are quite intelligent as you know, but I don’t know aboiut magpies. My neighbor witnessed a crow capturing and eating a live baby rabbit this summer. An activity easy to believe but I have not heard of it before. Now I’m looking forward to the wild parrots! Halloween here…do you celebrate it in Jerusalem? And, it’s supposed to snow tonite. I’m NOT ready for winter.

    • Well, I do have the feeling, Bob, that you know more about birds than I do… and all the more so in English. I have seen black and white magpies, but I was under the impression that these were crows, of the type quite common in Israel. And they’re not black and white, but black and gray. They are very intelligent, and extremely self confident. No problems of low self esteem among them. I have seen them eat all manner of things, but never a rabbit. That would be fascinating. I’ve seen them drop things from a height in order to open them. We do have a holiday which is a bit like Halloween, though it is based on a Jewish story. It comes in March, and people do dress up in costumes. But on your Halloween, life goes on as usual. I haven’t heard yet of anyone celebrating it in Jerusalem. I’m not ready for winter either. We’ve had a cold rainy week this week. And I don’t care much for the cold. I’m too late to wish you a happy Halloween, but let me take this opportunity to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving. That too is a holiday unknown here in our country.

  14. Worlds apart we are, and yet we share so many experiences. At a marina where I often work, the maintenance people and guards leave food for the feral cats, who eat their fill and leave the rest for the mallard ducks. It amuses me to see the ducks eating cat food, but they seem quite fond of it. And we have an imported bird, too — the monk parakeet. They’re raucous, and live in great colonies in palm trees and power grid poles.

    The squill is completely new to me, but not the pleasures of the neighborhood café. Though I wouldn’t want to live in the midst of a large city now, as I often have, I still miss being able to travel on foot, and explore in bits and pieces. I’m happy to took the time to read and respond to the fellow’s verse. Who writes, if not to be read?

    • How nice to meet you Linda… and I imagine it’s a great pleasure to work at a marina. Yes, people are quite generous with living creatures here. And we have lots of birds, many of them visitors on their way from Africa to Europe or the opposite. The squill is a favorite flower, but it only appears for a short while at the beginning of autumn. I remember, some time back, I used to hear of a lot of people who said they were ‘writing to the drawer’, meaning they wrote poetry or prose that never got published… they would just put it in their desk drawer. These days, with the internet and blogs, I believe a lot of those people have found an audience. I enjoyed visiting your blog. Thanks for coming by.

  15. It’s so wonderful to come back to a place after so many years; to savor the old along with the new. That is exactly what I am doing in the new place we moved to, an area we used to live in some 12 years ago. Never did I dream we would return here. It has changed (for the better), and I too spend my days going about re-discovering.
    How nice to have struck up a conversation with the poet; to talk to locals can yield some very interesting people.

    • Thank you very much Angeline. It is a continuous pleasure spending time in this neighborhood where once I lived. And the mood of the neighborhood is very open and egalitarian. I think I’ll write more about it as time goes by. Hope you have great success and joy in your new home.

  16. Thank you for this beautiful sharing dear Shimon. have a nice weekend, love, nia

    • It is always a pleasure to see and hear from you Nia. We had a rainy week, but today the sun came out and shined. It looks good. Again, my best wishes to your family.

  17. I admire and relish the way you allow us to travel with you Shimon – for i feel your observations with each of my senses (and yes, the pizza even smelled good)…I look forward to the pictures of the parrots as they make themselves available to you. In the interim, I will re-read your post and enjoy my own ‘shpatzir’ around the neighborhood.

    • I’m very glad you enjoyed the post, Mimi. And yes, it is great fun to walk… not to go to a particular place, but just to enjoy the walking. My best thoughts come at times like that, and I find myself relaxing in the deepest way. Thanks so much for your comment.

  18. Great post, Shimon, I love how you are always watching and observing. I try to do the same. So much can be learned by observation. The squill, what an amazing and unusual flower to me. I’ve never seen anything like it. What a wonderful flower. I love that it is almost all white. Must be striking in person. I would love to photo it in studio with black glass for a background or a black drop cloth.

    Have a great weekend Shimon,

    Boyd

    • You’re quite right, Boyd; the squill is a very impressive flower when seen close up, and the flowering part of the plant is surprisingly large, so it is seen from afar. Sometimes you can see a large area covered with them (outside of the city… in the country), and that too is very impressive. We don’t see any cultured variety of the plant. I’ve never tried to take it into the studio for a photograph. But though I have a great number of photos of this plant, I think the one I’ve show here is closest to the way I would want to photograph it. You can see the natural background, but the trees and the shadows give it a dark background, and emphasize the beauty of the flower.Thanks very much, and my best wishes to you for the coming weekend.

  19. Wonderful moment in another place and time. Thank you Shimon.

  20. I enjoy travelling with your stories. Thank you again.

  21. I love your pictures, especially the squill (I never knew its name before, imagine that!)
    There seem to be an awful lot of crows, all over Jerusalem – but, I must admit, this is the first time that I’ve ever heard of a colony of parrots in our city. I’ve certainly never seen one. I shall have to keep my eyes open.
    Have a good week.

    • Hi there Shimona. I’m so glad you enjoy my pictures. I hope that when you say that you never knew the name of this flower, you were just talking about the English name. In Hebrew, we call it חצב, and everyone seems to speak of its beauty with the coming of autumn. As to parrots, after a lifetime here, I have to admit that I didn’t really observe them until recently. But checking them out, I found that they are protected wild life, and have been around in Israel for many years. Though the professionals do not believe they were native to our country, they are even mentioned in the bible. Some experts believe that they originally were brought to the middle east by Alexander the Great, and others think they came originally from Africa. They aren’t escaped pets in any case. Thank you for your good wishes. I do hope you are enjoying your new home.

  22. A really lovely read, Shimon. The Squill is gorgeous. Thanks for showing me around your neighbourhood. I would love to hear those gaudy parrots, “speaking in tongues.” 🙂 I felt that I was there, observing your interaction with the man at the nearby table. It must have given him pleasure to be able to share his poetry with you and Chana. Wishing you a lovely week.

    • So glad you enjoyed your visit with us. Meetings with new people, like ours with the poet are enjoyable for both sides, and usually leave us with a sense of optimism. Because as different as we all are, we usually find something in common. Thanks for your comment, and your good wishes. Hoping that the coming weekend will be sweet.

  23. The Squill made the hills look like they were covered with lace. How beautiful. There is beauty all around if we just open our eyes to see.

    • That is exactly the way I feel, Bev. We just have to open our eyes and get interested… forget for a moment all the things that are crowding our thoughts… and then, there are more wonderful things in this world than we could enjoy in a lifetime. We can choose. And find ourselves uplifted and inspired each day. Thanks so much for your comment.

  24. Too many of us feel the need to go to special places to ‘see the sights’, we don’t realize how much real life there is close at hand in the everyday places that is just as rewarding and interesting, all it takes is for us to slow down and relax into our environment. Thanks for the reminder, Shimon

    • Yes, Andy. I was just saying much the same thing to Bev. Sometimes we have so much in our heads… including plans and desires, that we aren’t relaxed enough to appreciate what is right around us. I remember as a young student I was so impressed by the fact that the philosopher Kant was able to live all his life in a relatively small place, and yet, bring wisdom to the world. Thanks very much for your comment.

  25. I’ve never heard of squill, but I can see why you look forward to seeing its flowers in the fall. In searching the Internet, I found several plants called squill. Is Drimia maritima the scientific name of the one you’ve showed here?

    Austin (Texas) also has a colony of green parrots that I see from time to time. Of course they’re not native here, so someone must have released at least a pair of them into the wild, or else some birds escaped captivity.

    • Well Steve, I know you’re more learned than I am when it comes to plants, and probably a lot of other things as well. I never did know the scientific name for the plant, and had to look up the English name in a dictionary because I’d never seen the plant outside of my own country. But now I checked it up, and your guess is right. That is the Drimia maritima, and I thank you for widening my knowledge. As far as I know, our own parrots never had to escape from captivity. They are not domestic birds, and are protected wildlife here. Though they’re not really native to this country, they have been here for a long time, though they normally prefer to live in the country. They are even mentioned in the bible. And it turns out that in recent years they have been nesting here in Jerusalem.

  26. Hi Shimon, good to see that life is good. I realise I haven’t been around in blogland for a while but that hasn’t stopped me thinking about my friends.
    And today, returning to your blog i noticed your “strapline” – what matters to one old man – and wanted to say how much I love those words and the possibilities they bring. Claire

    • Thanks very much, Claire. Good to see you back. As you might have noticed, I’ve been somewhat distracted myself recently, and just now started checking out old notices from the blog and saw your comment. Best wishes for a warm winter.

  27. Wow, what a wonderful adventure! Crows, Parrots and Cats are three of my favourite animals 🙂 It all looks and sounds really lovely.

    Here, summer is definitely starting to show, with our first day that’s reaching 35 degrees. All the grasses are drying out and dying; the garden was a bit neglected as I traveled recently. It really is a losing battle. I just hope the plants are resilient.

    • How amazing it is to exchange thoughts with someone who’s on the other side of the globe and has summer when we have winter. Hope it’s not too hot, and that you’re enjoying yourself. As for Crows, Parrots and Cats, I think they’re all quite intelligent, so it’s a special pleasure to relate to them. Thanks for your comment, Jess.

      • Yeah, it really is an amazing thing! The summer has been unusually humid, but not too hot this year. Nature bounced back better than the people did (which really happens every year; no surprise there)! I absolutely agree about the animals. I love it! You’re welcome 🙂

  28. I enjoyed this walk Shimon ! … and the wonderful way you write …thank you

  29. I will have to wait for spring now to walk about, so I enjoyed hearing about the sights, animals, and people in your neighborhood.

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