a new life for the yams. soon they’ll be potted plants

There were a couple of pictures of Charlie in my last post. And that brought comments and mails with questions about Charlie. And with them, an awareness, that though I do use photos to illustrate my blog posts… often from my own life, and environment, each of the photos is a glimpse, taken out of context. It occurred to me that much of life is like that. We tell a story, paint a picture, or snap a photograph… and choose among them those incidents or images that have struck us in a certain way, that have amused us or moved us… and very often, because these moments or images are taken out of context, our friends get a different impression of our life from that which we know and relate to on a day to day basis.

last week we saw Charlie, but not the roses behind him

I take a walk most mornings, and see the same scenes, over and over again, each time in a different light, or a slightly different time of the day… in different weather, and with different company. And with each meeting, the people, the cats, the birds, the dogs, the bushes and the trees… the buildings and streets become more a part of me… and I more a part of them, without effort or much thought.

between the two of them, they see it all… while in conversation

I remember, when I used to take walks with my old mother, and I would stop to photograph a certain familiar scene in the neighborhood. She would often say, ‘Shimon, you’ve already photographed that scene in the past’. And I would say, yes, but not with those long shadows. Or something like that. For photography, which has been my profession for most of my life, is also my way of relating to my own personal environment.

a conversation with my son Jonah

my daughter Rivka tells an amusing story

But even though I’ve shared many scenes from my daily life, they often revealed only a part of the story… taken out of context, to a certain extent. And so the world as I know it, never really comes through. Sometimes I feel that it would be best to present a series of images… to demonstrate the changes in time, or a wide sweep of the environment.


Occasionally I come across a scene that stands by itself… one of those pictures that tell a complete story. But sometimes, they too are just hints. I don’t know the story from the point of view of the participants. But I invent or guess at the story, just looking at the scene. That happened the other day, as I was coming back from a walk, and saw a motorcycle, well hidden by a protective cover. Facing the hidden motor bike, were two shoes. I couldn’t help but wonder what happened. Did a hubby, or a lover, arrive in the middle of the night, and take off his shoes before coming into the house, so as not to wake the sleeping?

the medical clinic in our neighborhood

Since Chana moved back to Jerusalem, her apartment has become ‘a home away from home’; another station for me here in the city. Chana lives with Charlie, her cat, and Bonnie, her dog. They have both adopted me as well. We take walks together, and stare out the windows in each other’s company on rainy days. My little world keeps growing, and I discover new stars that were always there… but unknown to me, until I discovered them.

Chana and Charlie

soaking up some sun, Bonnie

It’s Friday today, and that means preparations for the Sabbath. According to our tradition, we either buy two loaves of bread or bake them before the Sabbath. They represent that free day on which we refrain from work. A loaf for every day, and an extra one for the Sabbath. Here’s a picture of the two loaves that Chana baked. One is covered with poppy seeds, and the other with sesame.


There are so many pictures, that I have to choose from… all of which are part of the whole story. But only a very few get included in these posts. And how often I’ve deliberated over a pile of images, wondering which would best represent what I’m trying to show. It’s always hard to choose the few photos that will be part of my message… and after I’ve made my decision, there are usually some very special ones that stay behind.

Jinji enjoying the winter sun in the back yard. His cousin waits for him on the other side of the gate…


64 responses to “context

  1. It is raining in here dear Shimon… I have already missed the sunny days 🙂 How nice to read you as always… Photographs talking too… I loved Charlie… Thank you, have a nice weekend, Blessing and Happiness, love, nia

    • The rain has cleared up a bit today, Nia. It’s really beautiful, if a bit cold. A good day for a walk with the camera. Thank you so much for your beautiful comment, and my best wishes to you too.

  2. But for me, all your posts are in the context of you, your ideas and your observations. And that suits me fine.

  3. Thank you for sharing. The challahs look fantastic. Good Shabbos!

    • Yes, those challahs were very tasty as well. Sometimes a slice of bread is more enjoyable than anything that goes with it… But I can’t complain. I eat very well, and enjoy it all…

  4. We all see life through the context of our own experiences. The joy is in learning to step back for a moment and see through someone else’s eyes. Thank you for sharing a glimpse, all we ever see of all there is. Since you only post on Friday, I want to wish you a Happy Hanukkah. May you be blessed.

    • Thank you very much, Judy. Yes, the holiday begins this evening, and spirits are up. I so agree with what you said about the glimpse. I often feel that way about what I know of the world… I’ve only gotten a glimpse, though I’ve already lived a long life.

  5. I love the photo of Chana and Charlie! And Charlie is a big cat! Like all visual art forms, photography is so much about the viewer’s interpretation. Whether intended by the artist or not, the viewer often has a tendency to fill in their own context and story.

  6. I love reading your posts and of course viewing the images that tell us about parts of your life.
    I love the photograph of Chana and Charlie…..really perfect and so enjoy taking walks with you and exploring the places you visit and frequent.
    Thank you so much and have a lovely weekend….Chana’s bread looks delicious. Enjoy. Janet. xx

    • Thank you so much, my dear Janet. Life is very sweet these days… despite the cold that is moving in. As you probably know, some folks are dog lovers… and cat lovers are usually quite different. But Chana’s household is a comfort for both a dog and a cat… and so even a long cat such as myself can find comfort there. My best to you. xxx

  7. Selecting which photos to use to illustrate your text is probably much more challenging for someone like you, since you create art through your photos. I can imagine that sometimes a blog post might even begin at the point of a specific photograph, and the text wraps around that image, and other photos are brought in to fill in the spaces or add color and texture. And, yes, it’s true; everything is always presented out of context, as even our own interpretations can change from moment to moment, and what might strike us one way today might carry an entirely different meaning for us tomorrow. The world we inhabit is so fluid and constantly evolving, and I’ll have to admit that before I became exposed to the works of some professional photographers, such as yourself, I once believed that photos were stagnant and immobile, once they were captured on film (or digitally). Now I’ve learned that isn’t accurate. Even a photograph can have motion, depending on the photographer, and on the viewer.

    I remember a photo you included in a blog post from quite a while back, in which you captured liquor bottles (?) on the dining room table (if my memory is serving me correctly), and I was especially struck by the way you captured the shadows, and specifically, a beam of sunlight. It impacted how I look through the lens of any camera now, as I am always constantly changing positions to search for what I think might be the most interesting angle, or that might capture the light in a specific way. It was a concept that I knew in my head before seeing your dining table photo, but until I saw that photo of yours, I hadn’t really understood how much making a deliberate choice in something so seemingly insignificant can have a big impact on the end result. For reasons I can’t really explain, that photo awoke something in me that was unexpected, and made me curious.

    I hadn’t intended to learn anything about photography when I started following your blog, but rather, was deeply interested in your own unique perspective as a Jewish person living in Jerusalem, and wanted to learn more about your customs and traditions and beliefs. The context of my interest has shifted and expanded. Now I’m just as interested in the human being that you are (within or outside of your religion or geographical location), but I’ve also become rather curious about your writing, and photography, and about some of the other differing aspects that combine to make each of us unique. It’s always good to hear your voice, and catch a glimpse into your world, and I thank you for sharing it with us here.

    • Your quite right, Nancy. Sometimes it’s just a lone picture that gets me started on a blog post. But then even then. It can be like standing in front of a third grade class… when you’ve said something, and all of a sudden all of the children raise their hands to be heard. There are so many pictures that long to be seen… lovely that you said, ‘photos have motion’. Let me add, motion and emotion. It gives me so much pleasure to hear that that picture of the bottles on the dining table enriched your appreciation of what we can do with photography. I remember that photo well. I am especially moved by what you say about coming to the blog for one thing and finding still another. I went through a similar experience in writing this blog. At first, it was just a way of communicating to a lot of people I met in my travels abroad… people who don’t speak my language. But meantime, I’ve made friends in cyberspace who are no less real to me; people I love and care about. As you said, it is all very fluid. And what we get is often far beyond our best intentions.

      • Since I wrote this comment, I’ve been caught up in a bit of consternation, as I was frustrated that I couldn’t remember when the photo in question had been posted. I did all sorts of searches on your blog for dining room table, still life, or Janne (thinking it was during the time you were staying with her), but still wasn’t able to locate the photo. Then, because sometimes patience and persistence are the only way through, I simply started working my way backwards (and re-discovered some favorite posts along the way). It was an interesting journey.

        Finally found it; (12-27-2013). Unexpected that it turns out it was almost a year ago that you posted that photo, and it still haunts me today. Perhaps “haunts” isn’t the right word. More like it is still alive and evolving within me. Like I’ve been turning it over and over again in my mind, trying to discover why it spoke to me in such a significant way. Once I finally found the photo, I was mesmerized, again. Powerful, and quiet, all at the same time. Deliberate, and yet casual. The use of light, even while reflecting sorrow. Really love this one. No wonder it stuck with me.

        Anyway, I wanted to mention I love the analogy of a classroom of third graders, all raising their hands at once, clamoring for your attention. A perfect description. It’s that way with me, sometimes, with story ideas. So many wanting space on the page, that I can’t possibly give them each the attention they demand. And, yes, it is true, especially in the cyber world of blogs, that “what we get is often far beyond our best intentions”.

  8. I enjoy very much seeing your world through your eyes Shimon. I always look forward to your Friday posts. As photographers we edit the images we share as we cannot share them all but it is these decisions that make the story we tell our own. Have a fabulous sabbath Shimon. The bread looks delicious. How lovely to bake your own bread. Something I have done many times. There is great symbolism associated with bread in both our cultures I think.

    • So true, Chillbrook, about the symbolism associated with bread. To make the bread we have to rely on the passion for life and reproduction on the part of the yeast… something we can’t really see with our eyes. And so it is with art too. There’s part of it we can see and examine. But what gives it soul, is something that’s a part of the process that we can’t see. Thanks for your comment.

  9. A wonderful post Shimon. The mystery is between the lines and around the visual cues. I guess it all comes down to the stories we tell ourselves, which inform our environments.

    • I agree with you, Marina. Each of us takes a bit of what there is around us… and understands it in his or her own way. Very glad to see you again, and thanks for the sweet comment.

  10. So glad to see Chana and Charlie, love Chana’s smile! I rally enjoy this peaceful post and pleasant photos. Happy Hanukkah, Mr. Shimon.

  11. Shabbat Shalom to you all and always the light will tell the story with help from the shadows.

    • Yes, it took me a long time to properly appreciate the shadows, Patti, But what you say is true on all levels, with much of the story peeking from the shadows… thanks so much for your comment.

  12. I can imagine the problems you have choosing pictures, they are all wonderful, now that’s a problem I never have, most of mine show the ear of a dog or the tip of a birds’ wing!!! What’s left are usually blurry!!!
    Sprouting yams eh? I’d have them in pots in a blink of an eye, I didn’t realise they sprouted, free plants!
    I like the idea of becoming a part of our environment, and the environment becoming a part of us, it’s good to be a part of the world rather than being detached from it. The more you look, the more you see, even if the scene seems the same.
    I’m glad you get to enjoy your time with your human and animal friends, I enjoy getting to know them too. Lovely pics, especially of Jonah and Rivka, and Chana and Charlie! Jinji….what a marvelous name. xxx

    • It’s especially good integrating, when we love our environment. I consider myself very lucky, and I’m grateful. And today we got a beautiful day again, after some rain. I am sure that you too, Dina, would find the human and animal companionship that I enjoy, truly delightful. That Charlie is something else… a Buddhist cat. The way he manages to live with the dog is a lesson in positive coexistence. Thanks xxx

      • I am quite sure I would enjoy your human and animal companions….gosh….a Buddhist cat!!! Charlie is a little like Curly cat who is also a large tabby cat, I brought him in a week or so ago, I got fed up with feeling guilty about the poor thing being outdoors, although he has the shed it must be draughty. Anyway I carried him in and set him up in the lounge with food and a litter tray. The result has been wonderful, Curly yowls when he wants out, and yowl when he wants in, and he is safe and warm in his own spacious room, we sit with the dogs in the kitchen….I am so relieved, especially as the weather is so much colder, Curly after all is getting on in years, I’ve been looking after him for 8 years and I saw him around and about for three years before that……maybe one day he will be integrated with the dogs, but that’s up to him….so a Christmas miracle eh?xxx

  13. What a beautiful post. Your pictures are lovely and we can make up our own stories about them, right? Although I do like your thoughts on the shoes and the motorcycle.

    • Thanks so much Loisa. Yes for sure… we all see the scenes and try to understand them in our own way. I just love the cat portrait on your icon. Here in Jerusalem, we have a rather sizable cat population, and quite a few real characters among them.

  14. Robert D. Hayes, D.O.

    It’s nice to meet the people in your life. I am so much a part of the world, that they will be planting (or dispersing) me in the increasingly shorter time. 🙂

    • You and me both, Bob. The older we get, the more we realize that all of life is a fleeting visit, a fantastic dream that has gone on for ages before we arrived, and will continue in its expected and unexpected ways long after we’ve gone… but we’ve had a taste of it… and it is called life…

  15. I spend quite a lot of time thinking about text and context, and people in the context of their culture … and then that culture in the context of others. And how we cannot help but filter everything through our own unique perspective. The challenge is to focus in on something that catches a glimpse of the truth of the whole picture, perhaps.

    • Agree with you, Gill… a glimpse of the truth… but isn’t it just a sliver of the whole… that whole which is far beyond us. Each of us with his or her own perspective… and the younger we are, the more we think we can grasp it. But as we go through this life, the world seems to get bigger, and we smaller… standing in awe.

  16. Once upon a time, very long ago, someone asked me, “What do you want?” I said, “I want to be ordinary.” It’s taken me a couple of decades to understand why I said that, or what it meant, but here you surely have shown us the heart of what passes for ordinary — human relationships, the pleasure of an animal, the beauty of a neighborhood — and we see the truth. The extraordinary isn’t “out there,” it’s all around us, hidden away in the heart of ordinary life.

    • So many of us think that we’re different in some important way, when we’re little. And wish to be like everyone else… I remember my children confiding in me that wish. Yet it turns out in life, that we move like a pendulum from looking out to looking within; wanting what others want… and soul searching to find what we ourselves truly want. As a young man, I was most impressed by the fact that Immanual Kant, the great philosopher, never really left his home town, and yet was the wisest of his generation. It is such a pleasure, and such a relief… and inspiration too, to find that the greatest gifts are all around us for the taking. Thank you so much for your comment, shoreacres.

  17. I must be low as the shoes made me feel someone had killed themselves

    • That seems a legitimate guess, Gerry. Everything we know, and all we read in the paper… or on the pages of the web, are happening daily around us… sometimes we go to sleep just wanting to forget it all… and have a dream of paradise. And other times, fall asleep in innocence, and have to deal with a nightmare. It’s all a part of life. Thanks for coming by, Gerry.

  18. So it’s all in the in between

  19. Beautifully written.The most talented man of our veneration

  20. Out of context is also context. This is the thought that kept repeating itself as I read through this post. You might make something of a philosopher of me yet, Shimon!

    Chana and Charlie —their depiction can say so much, or as little as we choose to see, or dwell upon. It was the picture that spoke to me. The other lovely and interesting pictures created the scenery. The yummy bread reminded me that we have eaten our bread and we need some more. 🙂

    • Wishing you good bread every day, and good friends with which to travel the path, for as long as possible. True, menhir, what is most important in this life, is what we choose to see… and it does seem to me that if we anchor our stare on just one object, we can loose the context… but maybe as you say, out of context is part of the context too… a wild comet racing through the skies…

  21. Such a lovely post, Shimon, and so many glowing snapshots of your life and loved ones. Your thoughts on how we convey fragments of ourselves to others, and how they in turn build other pictures on those fragments which may or may not be the ‘real picture’ is intriguing because I’ve been thinking along those lines myself in the last couple of posts. All best wishes.

    • You know, Tish, I think many of us, and I’m speaking primarily of myself, are still in the learning stage, when it comes to blogs. The very fact that we are available to the reader, and there is an interchange between reader and writer, opens up new possibilities of communication. Sometimes, I feel like I know what I’m doing, and a few steps later I realize it was bravado. But in any case, learning is so much fun. So glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks.

      • I agree. Blogging is a new territory, and more to it than may seem obvious or familiar to those more habituated to other forms of social networking. I find it interesting the way in which I decide how much I will or will not reveal. 🙂

  22. I always enjoy your musings and photos. Thank you for sharing.

  23. I’ve been crocheting granny squares.for blankets, on commission from family and friends, so the photo with Chana and Charlie caught my attention.

    • Oh, I’ve always loved those blankets… and I have a few that found their way to me. How nice to know that they are still a part of this world… Thanks, Mary.

  24. I always enjoy your pictures and they often give me a new perspective. I would never have thought, for example, of treating yams as potted plants 😉

    חג אורים שמח

    • Glad to have added a new possibility, Shimona. My best wishes to you and yours for a very happy festival of lights. So much better to watch the candles flicker than to hear fireworks through the night…

  25. Beautiful post and a great reflection. It’s nice to meet the people you talk about and know a bit more background. You made me think of an exhibition I saw of David Hockney’s paintings in London (he’s taken to using his i-Pad and going back to Yorkshire). There was a huge room where there were paintings (made with the i-Pad) of the same landscape in different days throughout the year…incredible.

    • Thanks very much for coming by and the comment, Olganm. I have enjoyed Hockney’s work since he was a young man, and heard about the recent exhibition, because I had only recently bought a pad myself. But he is truly a pioneer of integrating technology into his art, and always has something new to show us. I have yet to get really enthusiastic about the pad… because I do a lot of writing, and it’s a pain for me (with my big hands) to write on a virtual keyboard… but with time, I’m adjusting to writing with two instead of ten fingers.

  26. Dearest Shimon, It was nagging at me that I had not stopped to read your last two posts. When I do I miss out on hearing from a special gentleman, story teller/photographer, that has come into my (our lives) life. I wish for all of us peace, patience and strength to continue our journey.. and to always see beauty wherever we are. The best to you and yours Shimon.

    • Thanks very much for your beautiful blessing and kind words, Mother Hen. There is so much more around us, than we can possibly grasp… and so it’s up to us to choose what to search out, and what to spend our time on. Like yourself, I like to search out the good and the inspiring. Thanks for your comment.

  27. I’m very much like the ‘mother hen’ who has left her message above…I have missed reading the last few posts and I’m enjoying returning to mull over your messages and to enjoy the light and love, so apparent in your images. Thank you, as always, Kathleen.

    • Very much appreciate your coming by, Kathleen, and your sweet comment. I can understand that there’s so much happening in life, we don’t always have the time for reading blogs. But it is always very good to see you.

  28. I have missed your enriching posts Shimon. Will likely vanish again, but while I am here, I want to tell you that your choice of images and the parallel stories they communicate, always make sense to me. Love the shadows and the sense of mystery in the last shot of Jinji and his cousin especially 🙂

    • It is always a pleasure to see you and hear from you, Madhu, even if you’re off doing other fine things some of the time. Appreciate your comment, and wish you adventure and inspiration in all your efforts.

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