on noticing clouds

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A few weeks back, I got a comment from menhir, mentioning that someone had said that there were no clouds in Israel. I decided to photograph some immediately. Went out for a walk and did it. But then… just couldn’t think of any story to tell that would enable me to use the clouds for illustration. I guess I just like a wide open blue sky, and we do have them now and then. Watching clouds in the sky brings me very personal subjective thoughts… nothing I would share in public. I remember the cloud photos of Stieglitz and Steichen, and how people enjoyed them. But clouds never did that much for me as a subject for photography.

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When taking a walk, by myself or with others, I don’t look for subjects. They find me. Some to be appreciated visually, and some as thoughts, memories, dilemmas or inspiration. I do enjoy company, but when walking alone my thoughts are deepest and longer lasting. If I read a fascinating book, it’ll often accompany me as I walk. I have spent a lot of time with Theodore Roosevelt in the past few weeks. First his autobiography, and then ‘River of Doubt’ which Cheri recommended, and got me interested in TR. It’s an excellent book. As a study of Roosevelt, it reveals much of the same man that I got to know while reading his autobiography. Aside from that, it enabled me to know the others who were part of his great adventure in the Amazon, and provided the background to better understand TR’s passion to conquer new territory.

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A hundred years ago, when he lived his life, there had been a great leap in mankind’s understanding of nature and this planet on which we live. Roosevelt was inspired by the first successful expedition to the north pole. He found a romantic delight in the heroic feats of previous explorers who had revealed many parts of the world, unknown to Europeans and the west. The invention of the train, automobile, airplane, electrical light and devices aroused the hope in people that they would soon know and understand all of the world.

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From the start of the tale, we are aware of conditions and attitudes which will weaken and challenge the expedition. He wishes to learn unknown territory, to map the geography and examine wildlife and plant life which may be completely new to him. But because of prejudice, does not choose to first acquaint himself with the human beings who live on that territory. I don’t blame him. As we do today, he accepted the conventions of his time. He was exploring an area of Brazil. And Brazil was a sovereign nation, whose government was cooperating with him. The natives of that country, living outside of those territories that had the advantages of modern technology and culture were considered primitive cave men whose only hope was being civilized by the representatives of western culture.

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At the start of the expedition there were 19 officers, almost 150 hired hands, and 200 pack animals. As the expedition approached that leg of the journey which was completely unknown (to modern mankind), after reducing the crew to 22 men, there was no way of going back, not enough food, and a lack of equipment, especially appropriate boats to enable them to travel efficiently down a river in which the rapids were impassable. They were forced to bypass those rapids each time when encountered. How different the expedition would have been if they had found some way to cooperate with the indigenous tribes who were native to the land. Or if they had made a primary small visit to the area in order to acquaint themselves with the conditions in the Amazon jungle before attempting to follow a river nearly 1,500 kilometers in length.

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But Roosevelt was a romantic hero of historic proportions, and influenced by the standards of his time. He approached his mission with the preconceptions of his day. He traveled with an entourage that was fitting for a king, or for the ex-president of the USA. As difficult as the journey became, through sickness, wounds, fear and worry, he remained loyal to his principles. He was a man who did not fear to live his life despite the dangers.

life is a great adventure, and the worst of all fears is the fear of living

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42 responses to “on noticing clouds

  1. Good morning dear Shimon….I am just back from a month in the States and so am now beginning to catch up with blogs and so lovely to see yours pop up this morning.

    Very interesting about TR….I was completely unaware of his adventures, other than being president of the USA. But what I really love about the post are the photographs, particularly of course Nechama.

    Two of your comments resonated with me….1) ‘I don’t look for subjects. They find me” 2) “He was a man who did not fear to live his life despite the dangers. Thank you so much.

    Have lovely day – sending Hummingbird hugs in your direction. Janet 🙂 xx

    • Thanks very much Janet, for your comment. Welcome back home. I look forward to reading about your adventure. I too knew very little about the life of TR, and it was a great pleasure getting to know him. He wrote quite a few books, of which I only read his autobiography so far, followed by the excellent book by Candice Millard. None of his books are translated to Hebrew, so it took me a long time to get to know him, but he is definitely an inspiration. Very glad you enjoyed the photos. And sending you a great big bear hug back.

  2. Hello Shimon, thank you for sharing your thoughts and pictures. Lovely to see Nechama. I didn’t know that TR undertook travelling adventures and loved the feel of ‘intrepid spirit’ in your words. Hugs for you. xXx

    • Yes Jane, he was quite a traveler, and his trip to Africa is famous too. Aside from that, and being a politician, he was also a cowboy for quite a few years. Being president was just one of many adventures for him… and it was an adventure for me just getting to know him. Thanks for your comment. xxx

  3. I guess that for each one of us, life represents a great adventure. Actually, for each one of us, our “tale” is somehow written (in the stars?) at the very moment of birth. Kabbalah, i-ching, and thousand of divinatory arts since the first civility of Mesopotamia tried to give answers to the many questions men had. But still, we don’t know much about the future, our future, the future of mankind. There have been a lot of romantic heroes (like T.R.), whom with courage and desire of discovery have put footprints even (so it’s said) on the moon. The curiosity and conquer are deep inside our very Mind and body… maybe because of it, was our species to evolve (Darwin’s theory of evolution) and not another one. But this is another story, and there is a lot of discussion about. Like the question: was first the egg or the chicken? Sorry, I just let myself go with words 🙂
    About the clouds above Israel sky, I guess was metaphorical, since in the Bible or old Testament is many times are written paraboles or issues about rain and thunderstorms… and I guess that both are very serious books; and Noah knows better!
    Hugs and serenity 🙂 claudine

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Claudine. I suppose that sometimes… especially when seeing great masses of humans, ants or sheep, we tend to think that ‘they’ are all the same. When focusing on the individual human, dog or monkey, we are overwhelmed by the subtle differences. When sharing with our friends, we realize that every adventure is so very different, reflecting the unique quality of the individual. And yes, there are so many very serious books… I think that’s what keeps me going more than anything else.

  4. I always liked cloud formations as they change constantly and when you see in an elephant or a face or a god or a rabbit, you better hurry and imprint the image in your mind fast as change happens quickly and all the time when it comes to clouds … I so love the picture of the bird and would like to ask permission to maybe use it in one of my future blogger posts, friend Shimon … Purrs and kisses for Nechama and you respectively … smiles … Love, cat,

    • I love the sound of your purr, my dear cat. And am influenced by what you say about clouds. I never thought of the possibility of imprinting the image of a cloud on my memory, though I do enjoy the ever changing images. You are welcome to the image of the bird. If you wish, I could send you a larger file for your use. Your smile is uplifting. love, shimon

  5. I love all of these photos, Shimon. I’m always happy to see Nechama, and what is that other sweet mammal?

    Teddy was an interesting man, that’s for sure. He had many traits necessary for our democracy when they were most needed. I hope there are other such people of character coming up the political ranks. 🙂

    • The other mammal is a hyrax, which I used to call ‘rock badger’ in the past. I’ve written about them before, but I think it’s time to post a few more pictures of them. They are wild creatures, but I’ve managed to have some friendly meetings with a number of them.

      There’ve been many thoughts about leaders and the affect they have on society. My personal feeling is that we usually get what we deserve. When the society as a whole is more open and friendly, it produces leaders who reflect those values. But as in breathing there is in and out… and so are the tides of the sea, our hearts shouldn’t be proud or fall in despair over the election of a leader for a four year term. That’s our great advantage in a democracy; we get chance after chance to do better.

  6. You’ve made several of us aware of the adventures of TR. It is a good time to reflect on the words of an interesting book you’ve been reading, especially when out walking, and have little epiphanies.

    • You know, I used to spend a lot of my time working, And at each stage, when I reduced work it was hard to give it up. I felt as if that was the essence of life as I knew it. But as I’ve continued to learn about retirement, I’ve found still greater pleasure in reading, walking, and even thinking. Thanks for you comment, Angeline

  7. Even though the song is in Hebrew, it’s about clouds and how they change their shapes. And… the video shows all the different forms of clouds in Israel, in addition to your beautiful photographs.

    • Thanks so much Rachel for your addition to the post. I was completely unfamiliar with the song or the singers. The video attributes the song to Bronstein and Mendelman, but doesn’t mention who’s singing. But some of the scenes were familiar. With much appreciation and best wishes to you.

  8. Your photographs accompany your narration which I enjoyed very much! I am also heartened that a man of your intellectual heft enjoyed The River of Doubt. In times of vacillation and fear, I take heart in TR’s courage. What a guy (as my dad would have said!). Thank you for this engaging post.

    • Yes, what a guy. And I’m grateful to you, Cheri, for introducing him to me. The next time you run across a book that impresses you, be sure to let me know. You mention his courage and I agree with you. But these days, with so much talk about encouraging the talents of every child and discovering the unique qualities of every student, what impressed me most about him, was that as a young man, he focused on his weaknesses and limitations, and really worked hard to try and overcome them. As he tells it, he never became a really good roper, and took longer than others to cut down a tree. He was the object of ridicule because he wore glasses, and wasn’t more brilliant than others, but he kept on working on himself. Thanks very much.

  9. I love clouds. They add texture and “shadowing” to the sky. The reflection of sunset painted on the clouds are some of my favorite pictures.

    • Thank you Judy. I have to admit, I think I kind of took them for granted. But I’m learning to love them. You might see some more clouds among my pictures.

  10. When I read your comment that, “When taking a walk, by myself or with others, I don’t look for subjects. They find me,” I was delighted to realize I’d found someone whose experience is much like my own. And then, when I saw the photograph of the mysterious animal, I thought, “Could that be the elusive little creature that Shimon has written about before? The one he sees but rarely?” I can’t remember its name, but if it is the same animal, it surely proves your point about subjects finding you!

    Just last night, we were having a discussion about California weather at the dinner table: particularly, its tendency to be “perfect.” When I lived there, days and even weeks could pass without a cloud marring that blue sky, and after a while, it seemed unutterably boring. Of course, life in this damp, humid, semi-tropical area leads to clouds that are active and colorful, especially at sunset and dawn. Like the ocean, or fire, clouds are always the same, and yet always changing. Rather like life, now that I think of it.

    • Yes Linda, that’s the hyrax, which is known in Hebrew as the shafan, and is sometimes confused with the rabbit here, who’s relatively rare in our country. I used to call him the rock badger, but I’ve learned that hyrax is the scientific name. I’ve written about them in the past, but I think it’s about time to do another post on them, because I do spend a lot of time in their company. I liked your comparison of clouds to life. And I’m happy to report that for about four hours yesterday, we had perfect weather. Sitting on my balcony with a friend, and eating watermelon, I was thinking, what a good life this is… till it got cold and I had to go inside. Thanks for your comment.

  11. Very interesting post, Shimon. My thoughts take a walk with me when I go on my longer walks. Not much lately, have been rather unwell..

    • Very sorry to hear that you haven’t been feeling well, Peter. Wishing you a speedy recovery and a return to complete health. And I know about gloomy thoughts too, when we’re ill for a while. Thanks very much for coming by and for your comment.

  12. What got you interested in Teddy Roosevelt?

    • Cheri mentioned that she had just finished a fascinating read in a comment on a post, a few weeks past. And since the book was about an adventure of Theodore Roosevelt, I decided to read his autobiography before the book she had mentioned. The autobiography was quite a read, and after that I read ‘River of Doubt’, and was impressed a second time. I think you too would enjoy it, Frank.

  13. So glad you are finding Teddy Roosevelt an inspiration during your walks. He certainly loved the out-of-doors so it is most appropriate to read about him there. Wish more had his spirit of adventure.

    • There is so much in this world that is inspiring and gratifying, that really all we have to do, is to leave our perfect comfort zone now and then, and find that which really moves us. I think that’s what you do when you go off on your different adventures that you share with us. Of course, there is more in this world than we could possibly enjoy, so we have to discriminate too. Those choices are what lends the flavor to our lives. Thanks Bev, for your comment.

  14. I did smile Shimon, especially at the flourish of your photo walk finale. And in case anyone is wondering, I ignored what was said and sent off the gift of the book about clouds, which is/was meteorogically-based information and relevant wherever clouds cluster.

    x

    • This morning I watched a very dark cloud approach, and remembered that we were promised rain… It filled half the sky, and I was tempted to photograph, and were it not such an inconvenience to raise the mosquito screen… but then it got closer and closer until suddenly, no clouds… just a foggy dark day… but no one here would complain about a rainy day in June. Of course, we’re told this is one of the eccentricities of planet warming. But whatever the reason, it feels like a gift from heaven. thanks menhir. x

  15. What an extraordinary man TR was – I’ve just been skimming through his entry in Wikipedia. I did not know of his expeditions to African and S America, or his involvement in the construction of the Panama Canal.

    • I had read about him and the ‘rough riders’ historically,and knew he was an America president… but had no idea he was such an exceptional person till recently. Now that I’ve gotten to know him, I realize that being president was just one of his many adventures. Though he lived a hundred years ago, I feel that he has much to say to the Americans of today. And we who live in the rest of the world can enjoy him without worrying whether America is great, or great enough… Thanks for the comment, Andy.

  16. Walking and thinking and sights making their presence felt rather than being sought out: this makes me recall Darwin’s ‘thinking path’. He was fortunate to have one in the grounds of his own house, but we all need a thinking path, don’t we. It doesn’t matter where. That final line is a triumph AND of course I was very pleased to see such a fine hyrax photo. Very handsome.

    • I remember, some years back, my daughter took a course on inter personal communications. They learned a very interesting exercise which obligates two people in discussion to actually express the viewpoint or claims of the other person before presenting their own. I asked her, if people were in an argument, would they be willing and capable to do so? And she answered, ‘Yes. But you have to ask them first if they feel OPEN to do so’. It seems to me, that especially these days, with all the noise that we’re constantly hearing, being open and free is even more important; for thinking too. Sometimes, walking the park, I see others walking, or walking their dogs. But they have a telephone or player plugged in to their ears. And then, it’s hard to think. Glad you liked the hyrax, Tish.

      • That sounds like an invaluable exercise, Shimon. The media (as well as politicians) foster polarised attitudes – very superficial, but often so vehemently and dangerously held. Holding such positions then stops all rational examination of issues, yet people still think they KNOW the ‘truth’. It’s all very frustrating.

  17. I must say, you now have me interested in discovering more of TR! Wonderful pictures of Nechama, the rock badger and the cloud seat! How I would love to see a rock badger close up, they do fascinate me! I like company when walking but also enjoy a good deep thinking session when walking the dogs alone.xxx

    • I know you would just love the rock badgers, Dina. They are so intelligent, and so community oriented. The problem for most people, is getting to know them because they’re so shy. You really have to sit quietly for quite a while, so that they will feel confident about making contact. I have tried to take a few friends to meet them. But people will say a few words, or raise a camera… and then they run away. But knowing you, I have the feeling they’d be eating out of your hand. xxx

  18. I should look for that book. I admire the way you smoothly segue from pictures of clouds to talking about Roosevelt, and the courage to live life. You are such a story teller! And the subtle connection between the line about modern western man’s attitude towards the primitive, and how it must be civilized, and the photo of the cat with a collar – brilliant!!! Made me smile!

    • Thanks for your comment, Lynn. The cat with the collar is Nechama, my long time friend and companion. She just got a new black collar for the summer (it keeps the fleas away), and I hope she likes it better because it’s less noticeable. She sometimes accompanies me on my walks. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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