on every level

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I could feel the approach of spring as I traveled up north a couple of weeks ago, to the western Galilee. The rolling hills were showing green. There were flowers peeking through the grass, promising the delights of spring despite the chilly weather and the low hanging dark clouds that hid the sunlight more often than not. I’d slip out of my guest cottage on my way to the home of a friend, and find myself enchanted by the flowers in random stretches, in corners, cyclamen hugging the roots of sturdy trees. Though photography had not been the object of my trip, the gorgeous sights stimulated my somnambulating appetite and I had a great desire to take out the camera and capture some of those flowers. But like the birds who smiled at me from the branches of high trees till I began to unveil my camera, and then lifted their wings and flew away… so it was with the flowers whose petals blushed in a moment of sun, and then retreated in modest shyness as a cloud passed overhead, withdrawing the hot yellow brought by the sun. Though teased and frustrated by the momentary flashes of sunlight, once I had gotten my camera out, there were moments when I reluctantly accepted compromise, and took a shot of the blossom in the shade.

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Today is the eve of that great holiday, Passover. It honors the spring and reminds us to tell our children of the exodus from slavery, challenging us to examine our longing for freedom, and all the good reasons that lead us astray along the way. This obligation to tell our children of our aspiration for freedom and the many difficulties in achieving that state most characterizes the nature of our holiday. Their questions are valued, and we don’t have to have all the answers. But spending the whole evening around the dining room table in serious discussion, and the participation of all ages is the major feature of the holiday. The feast is the most extravagant of the three major festivals of our culture; those three events in which all of Israel would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in ancient times. We prepare fun and games for the kids in order to keep the them awake as long as possible, till the middle of the night. This is a week long holiday, so a lot of folks go out on family expeditions to enjoy nature. Some go camping. And there are some unique dietary laws that remind us of the very special quality of these days.

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We do all we can to make the festival perfect. But we know as we strive, that nothing is perfect, just as in our desire for freedom we know that it beckons to us only when we’re out there somewhere, still escaping slavery… once we have that freedom, history has taught us just how easy it is to corrupt and disrupt, and if we picture ourselves amusing the cows in the meadow by playing lullabies on a flute, it’s just a fleeting vision to be followed by monkeys’ mischief and entropy.

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We had barely left Egypt when we began wailing nostalgically for the watermelon of the ‘old country’. Forty years we traveled around in the desert, working to change ourselves from slaves to free men and women. And since that time, a lot of years have gone by, and every year we’ve commemorated the exodus, studying still another aspect of the work of freeing ourselves. And in every living room, another set of folks have considered those same questions in a different context, and found answers from a different perspective. Some see slavery as addiction, or obsession, or fear… or chasing after an illusion. And everyone sees freedom in his own subjective way. We’ve known miracles, so we don’t dismiss any goal as impossible. There’s been ups and downs all along the way. Even the most miserable of circumstances have left souvenirs in the shape of handwritten and hand illustrated copies of the Passover chronicle as it was recited and learned.

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Since I can’t share with you the many tastes, aromas and textures of those special Passover dishes, nor can I sing you the songs and responses that we sing to one another through the first evening, or share the light headed inebriation fostered by a minimum of the obligatory four goblets of wine this evening, I have chosen to share with you a few photos of spring’s nature. As it happens, these are the pictures I took when the clouds were hiding the full colors available only in the light of the sun. Take them for what they’re worth. Maybe next year I’ll have better.

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Close to our borders, the hyenas are preparing a picnic. They say it’s going to be a peaceful get together, but some of us are suspicious. We have been attacked before on holy days… and hyenas are better known for their attacks than their picnics. So a lot of young fathers are going to be called away to watch the border on this joyous occasion. But we still hope it’ll all work out alright this year. A happy Passover and a beautiful spring to all my friends.

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43 responses to “on every level

  1. Hope you have a peaceful and happy Passover holiday Shimon.
    An interesting post as always.

  2. The shadowed images are beautiful, Shimon. All best wishes to you and your family for your Passover festivities, the exchange of thoughts, and general good fellowship.

    • Thanks Tish. It’s a strange business, this dealing with colors. I have seen the work of others, shooting on winter days, cloudy or foggy scenes, and I have really liked those sort of studies. But when I’m photographing myself, I get very uncomfortable if I don’t have the full range of colors… as if on a sunny day. Well, there’s always room to learn.

  3. Gorgeous images. Peace.

  4. Your humble gratitude comes through in light and shade Shimon. Happy Passover my lovely for you and your loved ones. I love Cyclamens for their grace and delicacy. They always speak to me of hope. Hugs for much <3. xXx

    • I love the Cyclamens… more the wild flowers than the cultured ones… and there is something about their posture that moves me especially. It’s as if they were bowing their heads towards the ground from which they came, while the petals point up like a crown. Thank you so much for your kind words, Jane. xxx

  5. Shimon thank you for sharing your Passover festivities with us. The first flowers of spring are alway special. God bless

    • Yes John, the flowers, the grasses, the leaves of trees… we humans may sing in joy, but it is the body of nature that truly celebrates. Thanks for your blessing.

  6. Love the way you integrated you love for photography with spring and the Passover message. A blessed Passover to you and all those near to you.

  7. Loved these pictures and learning more about your traditions and culture. Happy spring 🌱

  8. Dear Shimon, חַג שָׂמֵחַ Here’s wishing you and your family a beautiful meal after the Haggadah service and fun for the ones finding the afikomen!

    • Thank you very much Lance. So kind of you to offer your blessing in Hebrew. It was a great time, and the high point was the discussion of what it means to work at giving up slavery. As I’m sure you know, the bible specifically addresses the problem of those who prefer slavery to freedom. So there’s much to discuss.

  9. Happy Passover, Dear Mr. Shimon. Hope you and your family and friends will enjoy and have fun.
    Thank you for the beautiful photos of spring. Way to celebrate spring. 🙂

    • Yes, it is a very special holiday, and we all enjoyed it. The beauties of nature played a very important part. And for me, it was especially moving to realize that though I’ve celebrated the holiday so many times, it has a slightly different face every time. Thanks very much for your comment.

  10. A blessed Passover to you and your beloveds, Shimon. Thank you for a most interesting and thoughtful post; it has given me much to ponder and deepened my gratitude for spring, freedom, and the questions to which we always return.

    I like the shade in these photos. It adds depth and contrast that’s lovely. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your blessing Kitty. I am still amazed, that though I’ve celebrated this holiday so many times, it still has a new face for me every year. And I’m glad to hear that you were able to appreciate these shots despite the shade. Maybe this is a personal problem of mine; that I am so fixated on the colors of sunshine… but I do especially enjoy the Cyclamens.

  11. Wishing you a very happy and safe season, friend Shimon … I can’t stop looking at the flowers as Winter came to visit us once again … Thank you so much for sharing … Love, always, cat.

  12. Happy Passover, Shimon. May it reflect the beauty of spring in every way.

  13. We wish you a wonderful spring and Passover from afar, Shimon!

    • Thanks to both you and the Goddess, Bill. Hoping that you too are enjoying the signs of spring. I know you spend a lot of your time in communion with nature.

  14. Chag Sameach, Shimon…and as we recite …’next year, in Jerusalem’..

    • Thanks very much for your blessing, Mimi. For generations, we used to say next year in Jerusalem. And these days, when we enjoy the great privilege of living in our ancient city, we say, next year in a fully rebuilt Jerusalem. And I have to say, as an eye witness, that it looks as if its getting close. So many reasons for joy.

  15. Lovely photos. Much joy to you.

  16. Stay safe Shimon.

    I roamed through your lovely vocabulary, I somnambulated with you and awoke to your delightful and your underestimated, very beautfiul chiarascuro photographs of your spring discoveries.

    If I were able to be a fly on the wall, I would choose your wall for Pesach gatherings, so I could listen to the stories, see the participation of the children and hear the conversations and discussions.

    I wish you good and secure Pesach.

    X

    • Ah, how very good of you, my dear menhir, to offer me a new word to learn; a word so relevant to my thoughts in this post. Thank you. It would have been a joyful opportunity to welcome you to join us in our celebration, not as a fly on the wall, but as a fellow human being who has had many parallel experiences and could add to the discussion, were it not for the different languages. Again, thanks for your good wishes. x

  17. My best wishes for peace and for beautiful days dear Shimon. Beautiful photographs and written piece as always, Thank you, Love, nia

    • Oh, thank you so much, my dear Nia, for your good wishes. Wishing you too, the many pleasures of spring, and may you enjoy it in good health and strength!

  18. What a beautiful post. I loved the spring flowers and like others here felt they added depth to your marvelous post. How I wish I could be there with the aromas, listening to the stories and enjoying the food. This is such a fantastic festival, I hope the hyenas kept there distance. Here’s to a peaceful, enlightening week.xxx

    • Welcome back Dina. Because of the holiday, I’ve been a little ‘out of it’ lately. Good to see you. The holiday was very good and sweet. Unfortunately, our young men were seriously challenged when the hyenas tried to storm our border, pushing unarmed civilians ahead of them. It was a reminder that each generation has its challenges, and that real life doesn’t provide a ‘happily ever after’. xxx

  19. A marvellous post Shimon. Enjoy your Passover holiday and spring. We have to look now to another winter of discontent; last winter was so cold and miserable. But a record hot summer banished all that. I read about those hyenas on your border. You will overcome once again.

    • Thank you so much, Peter. Sounds difficult… both the hot summer and the cold winter. Hope that your home can protect you in such extremes. We’re quite fortunate here, in that Jerusalem is on a mountain, so that even when the summer is hot, it is quite pleasant in our town. Best wishes to you for an easy winter.

  20. The cyclamens are gorgeous. They never last long enough.

    • I’m not sure why I love them so… think it’s something about their posture… but I can just look at them for long periods of time. Thanks, Ibeth

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