cows in the sun

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This morning, while listening to the hour long news roundup, I heard an item that might have been sensational, had it come from any other place in the world. But being local news, it didn’t seem to have the same effect. A skull was found in a newly discovered cave in the Galilee. And this skull has been dated as coming from someone who lived some 55 thousand years ago. In fact, the cave, which was completely unknown until 2008, contains many items which may teach us about the living conditions and life styles of prehistoric man. What is unique about the skull, is that it could be seen as a typical skull of modern man. And so, we now have another opportunity to try and understand the history of our species; whether man originated in Africa, and then moved out to the rest of the continents on the planet, as well as theories about evolution.

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But such a story is less sensational here in Israel, because it seems as if every time someone digs a deep hole in the ground, he comes up with ancient history. And over the years, it has become so common, that we hardly turn our heads when such a news item is reported. I am reminded of a story I heard about in my youth. A friend of ours decided to build a basement in his house here in Jerusalem, so as to add an extra room for his crowded family.

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As he was excavating, he came across numerous items that could only have come from ancient times. He showed them to his friends, and most of them thought that these finds had to be over 2000 years old. So a number of the guys got together to help this fellow out. They gathered at his home one night, with carts and wheel barrows in their possession, and quietly, quietly, they moved the dirt, rich in archeological finds, to a vacant lot in the neighborhood. A secret operation in the middle of the night.

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And why? Because if the authorities would have found out about this discovery, they would have declared the ground under his house a historical site, and he would have had to put off building his basement for years… probably till his children had grown up and left home. He just couldn’t afford to do the ‘right thing’.

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For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been posting about winter, and the way I relate to the cold weather. But as I mentioned, we do get some breaks in winter, After a week or two of cold and rain, we’ll have a few days or a week of sunshine. And that’s all it takes for the wild flowers to arrive on the scene, bringing with them the spirit of spring. This is the season of the anemone, which are very popular flowers here in Israel. They grow in the fields, and among the olive trees and the cacti… and songs have been written to celebrate them.

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Seeing the anemones in the fields, some gorgeous little blue flowers, yellow and white flowers that come and go, I was inspired to go out and enjoy these signs of life stirring. Thought it might be an opportunity to revisit the cows in the light of day. Walking through the fields, in search of cows, we came across many beautiful flowers and plants… among them, the very first of the almond flowers, which are just beginning their season now. Soon they will be seen all over the place… exotic white blossoms with pastel hints. The almond trees in bloom, when seen from a distance, look snow covered.

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When finally I found my cows, they were relaxed and enjoying the winter sun which warmed them on this otherwise chilly day. The contrast between the sunny spaces and the shade was almost blinding. They were gathered in the general vicinity of a low pool of water that had been constructed to provide them with drink. I watched as a few of them ambled over to the pool to enjoy the water. There were a few who seemed to look at their reflections in the pool, as Nechama sometimes gazes in a mirror I have in my work room. Though she’s familiar with the mirror, she’ll always stop for a minute, as her reflection registers in her mind. Sometimes, she’ll voice a meow… and I never know if the meow is meant for me, or meant for the possibility that there’s another cat just like her… on the other side of that glass surface.

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And gazing at the cows, looking at their own reflections in the pool, I was reminded of a painting by the wonderful Israeli painter, Michael Kovner. It is not really typical of his work, but it is a painting, that after I saw it, was etched in my mind forever. Here it is:

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67 responses to “cows in the sun

  1. I was transported and transfixed with these lively and living pictures. I have a special love of Anemones, as did a friend of mine. I always think of her when I see them.

    I wish I could turn the painting upsidedown, there is something there I really want to investigate and twisting my neck in contorted fashion – not to be recommended – does not quite get me where I want to be. the exposition is so clever.

    Inserting the story of the artefacts along the path of this post added to the rich variety of information you have provided. It reminded me of my visit to Ein Gedi and the excavations of what is thought to be the original City Of David. This post is brilliant!

    As always, your pictures are a delight. xx

    • Thanks so much for your comment, menhir. This was sort of a wandering post, in the middle of winter… with a few tastes of the things I love. Like yourself, I’m very fond of the anemones. Interesting that you mention ein gedi. Because in the last few weeks, they’ve had real problems over there. The earth has been opening up in a number of places, unexpectedly, and the only solid wide highway going down there has been declared unsafe! As a result, people are using that little road that used to be solely for the national park in the area, and we’re waiting for them to to build new supports for the highway.

  2. PS minor correction last sentence final para should read, and also my visit to the original…..

    • A good idea, Menhir,,, though I’m still looking for a real life version of the cow looking as she does in the painting. I get such a kick out of that one…

  3. Beautiful pictures and reflections. Love the painting. I’ll have to explore more. And I fully understand the story of the friend. I reminds me of an Egyptian friend whose aunt lived on a village next to a well-known temple and couldn’t work out why so many people went to visit. ‘There are only stones and rocks there’ she would say. I’m pleased the weather is better. Have a good weekend.

    • You bring up a very important point that I’ve encountered here too, Olga. I see people getting excited about some the ancient remnants of a synagogue, and I want to point out that the ideas, the melodies, and the devotion to to a transcendental spirit of the world around us is still alive in many conventional buildings all round us… but I wouldn’t want to spoil their pleasure, if they’ve found their joy in a sentimental visit to the past. My best wishes to you too.

  4. We have a similar situation here in the UK Shimon with protected species. Building work can be held up for years, even indefinitely, as report after report, required by the authorities and paid for by the building applicant of course, are produced by ‘experts’ should there be a newt or a bat to be found anywhere close by. I’m instantly reminded, writing this, of the witches in Macbeth. They would be serously hampered in their spell making these days. The painting is a fascinatin one. My cat Snooks often spends time looking in my bathroom mirror when I’m shaving or brushing my teeth. She jumps up on the side and will settle, gazing into the mirror and like Nechama, will issue the occasional meow. You’ve got me thinking as to what she sees now.
    As enjoyable a Friday read as ever Shimon. Enjoy your sabbath! 🙂

    • yes, Chillbrook… there is something of the open ended riddle, when we watch another looking at their own reflection. I remember one time, I was watching a woman I loved putting on lipstick in front of a mirror, and I raised the camera I had in my hands to capture the scene. And she, still giving all of her attention to the mirror in front of her, said, ‘no. wait till I’m done’. and not wishing to violate her privacy, I lost the shot. Thanks for your comment.

  5. That painting is just wonderful, and in so many ways. Your photos lift the spirits with their airy atmosphere. And absolutely fascinating about the 55,000 year old skull. It will indeed shake up the archaeology world. I studied prehistory for my first degree long ago, and so know that your neck of the woods was a busy place for prehistoric man, not least in developing agriculture some 10,000 years ago. Annoying though to have archaeological remains in your basement when you want to develop.

    • So glad you enjoyed the painting, Tish, and all the more so, because you said, ‘in so many ways’. For I’ve really enjoyed it in many ways… it tells more than one story. As a young man, I studied ancient documents… and then later, when I encountered archaeology, it seemed to have less magic for me.

  6. Good morning, Shimon–this entire post was so lovely and then the last photo. Such a surprise and a joy! Absolutely wonderful.

  7. What beautiful photos, I love the anemones. What a fascinating story about the excavation in the basement.

    • Yes, the anemones are especially beautiful because they just show up on the landscape… wild flowers; and they are followed by the poppies, which are similar in look and color. What a joy. Thanks so much for coming by, Cee.

  8. Interesting how often Men declare the importance of living in the moment and then punish a man who does because other Men deem their quest for the past more important. It would be fine if those benefiting from the exploration of the past paid for the inconvenience they inflict on the person living in the present. Not a PC perspective, I know.

    I laugh at your cows in the rain, last week, while we were sunny and warm, and your cows in the sun, this week, while it is steadily raining.

    The almond blossoms could be interchangeable with our Ana apple blossoms.

    The painting is amusing and a little bit disturbing. 😀

    • It seems to me Judy, that it is more popular to glorify the past than to encourage living for the moment… and that it is especially popular with the aged. For they remember the beauty of the past, and are confused by what’s new (and you know, I’m aged myself). But still, the essence of life is found in the present… and I believe we miss something every time we look elsewhere, no matter what the reason. I think I could guess why you found the painting a bit disturbing. But there are many ways to look at it. Thanks so much for your comment… and your smile.

  9. Just LOVE the anemones and almond blossoms, Shimon; they really cheer the heart, especially as we head into another deep freeze here in Wisconsin! The cows exude peace; how lovely for you to have such a bright, warm day to get out and create your amazing art: thank you!

    • We’re having another sunny and warm day today, Kitty. And it put me in a very good mood. I watched the sunrise this morning… and there were blue skies with pink clouds in them. As it happens, though, I don’t usually take photos of sunsets or sunrise, because those moments are so exquisite, that a photograph ends up leaving too much out. Thanks so much for your comment.

  10. Winter is a fickle season and ours this year seems stranger than most. Temperatures have see-sawed. Spells of almost spring-like warmth and then a sudden swing to frost. Yesterday we had a dusting of snow and yet out walking to fetch the daily paper this morning I spotted the first Daffodil in bloom, and the Snowdrops in my garden are about to flower – the harbingers of Spring. When I see these flowers they lift my spirits – Spring can’t be that far away, the earth is stirring int life once more. A beautiful set of images, Shimon – Anemones are such pretty flowers and the Almond flower is a delight.

    • I had to look up Daffodil in the dictionary to know what you were talking about, Andy. And though I do know them by their Hebrew name, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them grow wild here, as do the anemones. Soon will have wild poppies too, which are also a wonder to see. I know what you mean when you say it lifts your spirits. I can forget all my sorrows when I’m in a field of wildflowers. Wishing you a very beautiful and enjoyable week.

  11. Delightful, Shimon. I love the way you weave a story ending with that marvelous painting! The shot of the cow and her reflection makes me want to go out and find some cows too! I hope you have a great weekend.

    • Thank you, Cathy. It was a restful weekend. And now the new week has begun with a sunny day, and warmer weather, so I’m in a very good mood. Glad you enjoyed that painting. I might dedicate a post to some of Kovner’s work. He is one of my favorite artists.

  12. What a beautiful painting by Michael Kovner! And your flowers are also lovely. We too are beginning to see the signs of spring around us, with the irises and daffodils pushing through the ground: no long before the bloom!

    • It certainly brightens up the winter and gives hope for the future, to see the fresh shoots of green and an occasional flower. Wishing you warmth, and good adventure, Fatima. Glad you enjoyed the painting.

  13. The painting by Michael Kovner lends itself to insightful conversations. What might he have been thinking when he created it? The color are wonderful as they are soft. I find paitnings done in this way to be soothing to view as they do not pop out at you. Warm days can bring out a soothing feeling in us. I’m pleased you were able to capture the lovely anemones in the fields.

    • I would agree with you, Isadora. There are many ways to interpret such a painting. When I first saw it, I was thinking that looking at animals, I often identify with them, and imagine myself in their place. Why shouldn’t the picture be just the reverse when they gaze at us? For me, the warmth brings strength, and a more positive attitude. Wishing you a beautiful week.

  14. I simply love the flowers, especially the almond blossom….we are hungry for flowers here! What an amazing story about the guy dumping the rare items in the car park! I suppose when something happens all the time then it does become the norm….although I would love to come over and dig a hole and see what I could find!!! I read about that skull on the internet yesterday….I have always had a vague theory that modern humans have different human DNA in them,,,,,maybe the gentler among us have more Neanderthal DNA…
    I loved your cows, and that painting is marvelous!
    Now from what I’ve heard, cats only miaow at people and not at other cats….they do growl and yowl etc but never a miaow escapes their lips for another cat…. xxx

    • How sweet of you, Dina, to imagine that the Neanderthals were more gentle than modern man. And you could be right. After all, those that took over the world seem to have wiped them out. On the other hand, I have often heard them described as more brutal. It’s hard to know. But it could very well be that there was a long overlap period in which different versions of man existed at the same time on this planet. Just as there were many more species existing in our world just a thousand years ago.
      But what you tell me here in your comment has me fascinated and very curious… I have to look into this business of the cat’s meow. I have spent much time with cats, including situations where there were quite a few cats in the same place, and I was the only human being. I had noticed this, because I was just absorbing what was there, and not thinking about what wasn’t there. Now I want to understand the mechanism better. How wonderful, if cats have a special language with which to relate to humans.
      And what is particularly interesting along this line, is that for most of her life, Nechama did not meow to me. She came to me as a little kitten, and though we were very close, and communicated… it was not in the form of meows. Then when I was moving from one house to another, she stayed with one of my sons, who also has a cat. When she returned she meowed frequently, and has kept it up ever since… I have to learn more about this. Thanks so much for your comment. xxx

      • It is a fascinating subject isn’t it? Kittens meow at their mothers but once they grow up they stop. I must say I have checked this theory out. I have spent hours in the cattery watching the cats….there is lots of purring and growling but I have never heard a meow pass between two cats….and as soon as I enter any enclosure the cats meow to me. Interesting to hear Nechama never meowed, maybe because she was separated from her mother as a tiny kitten…..I wonder if she learnt how to meow from your son’s cat? It must have been lovely to hear that first meow, and surprising!xxx

  15. What a beautiful day you had, and I’m glad we could enjoy it as well. The cow gazing at its reflection in great, and the painting of the cow gazing at its reflection is fantastic.

    • Thanks very much, Angeline. It was a very beautiful day, and it sure is good to get a break in winter. I do love the work of that artist, and I think I’ll write a bit about him one of these days, and show other examples of his work.

  16. Oh Shimon what a great post! LOVE the painting (Ha ha ha!) , and yes I even heard about the skull found in the cave while reading on the internet – Your observations are delightful. Keep it coming my friend.

    • So glad you enjoyed the post and the painting, Jo Ann. For some reason, many of my closest friends, all my life, have been painters, and I too, dabbled a bit in my youth. Painting and drawing give a lot more room for a free and imaginative interchange with our surroundings, and I have always enjoyed that sort of expression. I do appreciate your encouragement.

  17. Great painting – we all see something different than what we really are when we look into a mirror. I’d like to hear more about the archaeological finds in your country. This ancient history fascinates me.

    • Yes I agree with you Bev… we look in the mirror and see something different than what others see when they look at us. I’ve never been all that interested in archaeological finds… maybe because I started out studying ancient books and manuscripts, and that opened up enough of the past for me. But there is so much to find here in Israel. Maybe I’ll post some of the ancient sights that surround us. I know it interests a lot of people. Thanks for the comment.

  18. Loved this! After reading this I got to enjoy a wonderful days in a Land I’ve always wanted to visit!

    • Very glad you enjoyed the post. I consider myself very lucky that this is my home. Even though we have a very little country, there always seem to be new places and new experiences around.

  19. Loved Kovners work. Glad you put in your cow reflection. I wonder of the odors of all those different blossoms, being that near to the sea. Here,in the spring, while on a 4 wheel ATV, every 100 ft or so has a different but incredible odor. Wish I could share it. I can understand the problem with antiquities. Sad.

    • I’m a bit hesitant to talk about odors, because as you know, Bob, I’m a smoker. And it is known that this bad habit damages the sensitivity to odors. But it seems to me that the smells of these wild flowers are not so strong. On the one hand, there are a lot of competing odors. There was a road not too far in the distance, and the cars going by have their own odor. And the cows too have their odors. In contrast, there are a few flowers here that I smell before I see them. Which strengthens my belief that most of the wildflowers here do not have strong smells.

  20. Ah the hope of spring to come….and that is what these beautiful flowers bring with them. It’s bitterly cold here at the present, and so they are tonic for me as well.

    The cows are lovely and I do like the painting….

    Also really enjoyed the story about the man and his basement find. We have the same problem here….if someone finds ancient relics on their property….they can’t do anything and so think the owner of the house was very canny.

    A lovely thought, Nechame looking in the mirror:) Thank you.xx

    • yes, it is a blessing to see these flowers raising their heads in the fields, in the middle of winter… give us the courage to keep on going, despite the cold. I enjoyed your warm paintings too, Janet. As I mentioned in another comment, unlike photography, painting allows us to bring an alternative world into being. Sending you my very best. xxx

  21. Lovely photos. I have a soft spot in my heart for cattle as I grew up on 3.5 acres and we always had a cow or two. I remember the excitement of being woken up in the wee hours by my mom to hurriedly get dressed and go out to the barn to watch a calf be born. They were such gentle, mellow creatures.
    I had to Google anemone, the flowers of which you wrote about. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I had only heard of the sea anemone and had no idea there were flowers that shared a partial name with the odd, squishy sea creatures I am familiar with.

    • Now you’ll have me looking up the sea anemone. I didn’t know there was such a thing. I suppose there are great differences, in different parts of the world between plant and animal life, despite the fact that we’re on our way to becoming a global village. These red flowers are seen all over the country now. They are wild flowers and grow in every open field… sometimes between trees… sometimes in construction sites. I agree with you, shoes, the cows are very beautiful and gentle creatures. Thanks for the comment.

  22. So many rich rewards from the days of rain, and what a splendid painting! So fascinating to hear the stories of ancient civilizations which remain so much a part of life and living today in the very grasses that grow and nourish your sweet cows.

    • Maybe I should have posted some photos of ancient structures. We have so many here. And some of them are very interesting. Of course, the history is interesting too, and there are many in our country who’ve made the study of that history a hobby, and quite a few professionals too. Thanks very much for your comment.

  23. Bright and lovely, these photographs gave me sunshine on a dark, wet, windy night! Its amazing how quickly the flowers will grow again, spirit always waiting.

  24. If I hadn’t lived in Jerusalem, this might sound outlandish, but Jerusalem and much of Israel is a giant archaeological site. I love that about Israel, that wherever you go, you walk with the ghosts of the ages past. When people say something is “old” in this area, they mean maximum 300 years … and I remember Israel, where the new walls of the old city were built in the 1500s.

    • Right, having lived in Jerusalem, you know just what it’s all about. Everything is relative in the west, and sometimes it’s hard for me to understand that. But there is always something to learn, and lucky me… that’s what I enjoy most. Thanks for the comment Marilyn.

  25. Dear Shimon,
    I will never lose my enthusiasm for archaeological discoveries! How exciting to learn from these finds. I loved the painting by Kovner! I love cows. Behind every pair of big brown bovine eyes, there is a lovely lady!

    • I do like your interpretation of the painting, Naomi. But then, I always like the way you look at life. I myself am not a great enthusiast of archaeology, but now and then there’s a discovery that even gets my attention. So glad you enjoyed the painting. It’s one of my favorites. Best wishes.

  26. I grew up calling the anemone the “wind flower.” Perhaps the name refers to the way the flower bends in the wind, or perhaps it points to the ability of the flower to send a wind of beauty through our minds, clearing them of our mental cobwebs!

    I enjoy our local history, and the archaeological finds that go along with it. I lived for a time in an area where things like the cannons of René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, turned up in farm fields, and his ship, the Belle, was found buried in mud in a local bay. In a lovely spot I used to visit, there was a cooking mound used by Indians. After every hard rain, another layer of soil would be washed away, and the old tools, arrowheads and chips would be there for the taking. We never dug — we just let nature reveal what she would.

    I suspect part of the excitement is that history here is so new — if that makes any sense. I’ve known people whose grandparents and great-grandparents were part of settling the land. I’ve retraced some of my great-great-grandfather’s Civil War journey, right here in Texas. I think history is much like that lovely pool the cow is peering into. When we look deeply into history, we see ourselves differently.

    • I do agree with you, that history reveals a lot about ourselves, and what brought us to this point as well. What you say about the short history of your country is also very interesting. I imagine that the Native Americans had history too, but it was a verbal history, much of which has been lost. Thank you for telling me about the anemones that you knew when you were growing up. The flower is so common in our country, but I had to look into a dictionary to know what it was called in English, because I hadn’t come across much mention of the flower in my limited experience with the English language. Thanks very much for your comment, shoreacres.

  27. Thank you for sharing your day with us, Mr. Shimon! Fascinating stories about prehistory human. It reminded me about the PBS prehistory of human series, well documented. Beautiful photo of the cows. Love the flowers. Have a great day, Mr. Shimon. I haven’t receive notice of your recent posts. I went to my own subscription list, which brought me here.

    • It’s a pleasure for me to share a bit of my life with those who live far away… in a different culture. I am grateful, Amy, that I have lived to see the world become more connected, and for people from different lands to understand one another. It gives me hope and optimism.

      • It is always inspiring, encouraging, and delightful to read your stories. I said to one of blog friends yesterday that I have learn so much from blogging, that I feel I have learned to be a better person. 🙂 I agree the instant connectivity increases better understand one another that render us hope and optimism. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  28. I loved your story this morning. I have been saving it for a peaceful moment, as your writing always draws me to walk beside you. Thank you. x

  29. Once again, the descriptions are wonderful! Thank you for sharing your walk and your thoughts with us!

  30. Thanks Shimon. I loved all the musing and mental,and physical images here. Thanks for the introduction to the painter. Regards Thom.

    • Thanks very much Thom. I suppose each of us shares what interests him or her on these blogs… and though I’m an old man, I am grateful that I have lived to see this new frontier in communication.

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