Tag Archives: animals

cows in the rain

In last weeks post, I spoke of my discomfort in winter weather; the difficulty I have trying to find artistic inspiration in the rain. But as I told you, when looking for pictures I photographed in the cold, rain and snow, I came across a number of old images I thought worthy of sharing. The photographs shown here are part of a set, called ‘Bashan cows’, and were photographed some 30 years ago, on negative film, in northern Israel on a cold and rainy day.

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My readers are aware of my love of cats. I have lived with them almost all of my life. I have learned from them, and built lasting friendships with them; more than I could count. But there are other animals as well, that I have learned from and loved. And from early childhood, I have had a very special regard for the Bovinae family, commonly called cows or cattle. I enjoy watching them graze; enjoy their moderate temperament, and learned a bit of meditation in their company.

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I first met them on a dairy farm, and afterwards spent time in their company in Switzerland, where they chewed the mountain grasses in summer, without a care in the world, appreciating nature. The voices of cows and bulls have a timber that makes its way to our hearts. And humans who enjoy the company of cattle are known to sing to them. Both in Switzerland and on the grasslands of Texas, in the western US, you can hear cowboys yodeling to these massive four legged domestic animals. And it seems to me, that as much as their herders influence these fine animals, they are themselves influenced by the spirit and the character of the cattle they live with.

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Not so long ago, I had a dream in which I’d fallen in love with a cow, and she had come to live with me. Her behavior in my dream was much like that of Nechama my cat, in real life. And when I’d be eating or working at my table, she would jump up on the table, to sit by me. But her weight proved overwhelming for the table, and again and again, the table would be smashed to smithereens, ending flat on the floor as a pile of wood. I would try to explain to my cow that this wouldn’t work, but she would just nuzzle up against me, and assure me that she was motivated by love.

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At one point, the carpenter came to repair the table, and I pointed out a large pile of wood on the floor of the salon, telling him he could use any of the wood he found there… explaining that those boards were what remained of three previous tables. When I awoke, I was laughing.

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The cows depicted in this series accepted the weather conditions with equanimity. And because of the heavy fog, one sensed their presence more than the details of their features. In art, as in dreams, the message comes through by way of hints, more often than not. Though I have photographed cows many times, in a great variety of circumstances, this series is most loved, because it doesn’t go into the details. It just tells the story by way of impressions.

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If you’re interested in seeing the whole series, your welcome to check out the following link, where you’ll find the pictures in larger dimensions. You may enjoy a slide show by pressing the play button at the top of the Flickr page.
https://flic.kr/s/4dhc

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the emblem of Jerusalem

We human beings see ourselves reflected in all living things… primarily in animals, but in plants and flowers too. The symbol of my beloved Jerusalem is the lion of Judah, going back to the days when our capital was established on the seam between the tribal lands of Judah and Benjamin by King David. Our sages used to say, it is better to be the tail of a lion than the head of a fox. When I was young, you could still encounter the big cats outside of the city. You don’t see them anymore. They have disappeared in the face of modern civilization.

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And though I identify with the cats, I have always had a special fondness for frogs and butterflies because they appear on this earth in their second incarnation. I saw them as a promise to those who wish to build themselves beyond the circumstances in which they were born. The frog is first a pollywog, and the butterfly starts out as a worm. The case of the swan is more an allegory than a reincarnation. He wasn’t really an ugly duckling. It was just the ducks who thought so.

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fleet footed

But when reaching for fulfillment, there’s no taking it easy. The higher we want to go, the more we have to be prepared for the depths. There’s a balance in this world between pain and pleasure. But there’s also blind luck that doesn’t make sense to our logical minds. Lions and elephants are born to be big. They don’t have to crawl on the ground like a worm before spreading their wings, and soaring through the air. And there are some artists too, who are born with the promise in their eyes. All they have to do is learn their tools, and play those rough cat games in their youth. Of course, they too have their share of pain, and humility… left alone at times, beaten, scratched and slapped. It’s all a part of growing up. And woe to the cat who indulges in self pity, or seeks out consolation for the traumas he’s had.

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aching for life

Woe to the pollywog who found it so hard to be a little fish in the big pond that he didn’t want to grow up ever… We live in the age of compassion, of special needs, of nurturing… Wild animals have been hounded to death, and our garden hedges look like well manicured poodles. Every handicap has been categorized and is compensated for by the big mama of social services. Still, the wails resonate in the halls of learning these days. Though the sad sacks are given wheel chairs, and the confused are given multiple choices, despair floats in all directions like low hanging clouds that block the view. Don’t look for sympathy, my children. Don’t look for instant pleasures, eating till your bellies drag along the floor. Better to be a lean cat with sharp nails trained and tested on the acacia tree than a fat pig, grateful for his good life, and unknowingly on the path to slaughter.

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father and son

The artist, the poet, and the musician labor long hours striving for perfection… for a straight line, for an effervescent color, for a rhyme that won’t be confused with a knee jerk, for the whisper of infinity on the horizon. He doesn’t look for breaks or for presents, or for recognition or fame, nor for honor or love. The true reward doesn’t come as prizes or compliments from sycophants. Forget the awards. The only reward worth knowing is personal satisfaction.

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the rock badger

One of my great pleasures, on my morning walks, is observing wildlife, and occasionally meeting with them face to face. Living in a suburb on the very edge of Jerusalem, I have more meetings with animals than I did years ago, when I lived pretty much in the center of town. There are numerous reptiles, and small mammals, and of course, many birds. There are a great variety of birds in Israel, because aside from our local residents, there are many exotic birds who visit us as they fly to and fro, from Africa to Europe in the summer, and then back to Africa as winter approaches. And strangely enough, it seems there are more birds in the center of town than in the suburbs. One of their favorite hang outs is in the vicinity of the Bikur Holim hospital, right in the center of the city.

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walking on a foot path

More often than not, I don’t know the English names of the animals I meet. And when I look them up in the dictionary, I find names that no one has ever heard of. And this is particularly true of an animal I wish to tell you about today. The rock badger is a very common animal in Israel, and is found across central and southern Africa as well. In our country, they are considered similar to a rabbit, and rabbits are often called by the same name. but in studying them, I discovered that they’re not of the same family, and not even distantly related. In fact, the only animals they are related to biologically, are elephants and sea cows. They are light brown in color, about 40 to 50 cm in length, and weigh about 4 kg. In our country, they are known as the most timid of all animals, and they’re noted in our culture for being wise.

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sitting on a fence at the edge of the park

It’s because they’re so shy, that I’ve been drawn to them. When I was young, they were always afraid of me, and used to scamper away as soon as I saw them, perhaps because I was often accompanied by my children or cats when out walking in nature. But in recent years I’ve had repeated meetings with them, and some of these meetings have been very pleasant. I’ve sat with them for 15 and 20 minutes at a time, and even had the questionable pleasure of having them talk to me. I say questionable pleasure because I didn’t understand them at all. But last week I sat with one of them for quite a while, and neither of us talked. And only after some time had passed, I took his picture, for in the past, opening my camera usually caused the badger to leave my company.

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the rock badger in the wild

These animals live in groups from 10 to forty in number. They choose to live among boulders and rocks, and post sentries who give an alarm when seeing animals or humans who might threaten the group. Though famous for rock climbing, I have seen them climb trees with great agility. It is said, though, that they spend most of their time resting. What is interesting about them, is that they have many different vocal calls, sometimes referred to as ‘songs’, and one gets the impression that they have some sort of language based on different tones. They can be quite talkative when among their own, and not bothered by other animals. On rare occasions, I’ve met with two or three at a time. Usually, with one coming forward to meet me, and the others watching from behind. But most of the time it was one on one. Up until recently, I had met with them in their natural habitat, usually in a small forest close to my home. But last week, I spied one fellow in the park. And when I sat down and waited patiently, he came up close.

flowers and fruit

We’re often more attracted to the flowers than to the fruit… since the flowers are glorious advertisements for the plants, often meant to attract attention, attract insects and other living creatures to help in the spreading of the seed, and the procreation of the plants. But where there are flowers, there often are fruit, some of which are also meant to attract living creatures to spread seeds.

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Of course, when it comes to fruit, we are most interested in those fruit that we can eat… and having been warned by mother or father or teacher that certain fruits are not to be eaten, we lose interest.

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But those who’ve learned to familiarize themselves with the greenery around them, find great pleasure and inspiration in the subtle manifestations of plant life… and a vegetable becomes more than something to chomp on… or a sorry description of a human being who has lost his vitality.

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After that overwhelming encounter with the orchids in my mother’s home, I had the desire to look at more flowers and watch them grow… and I told you of my visit to the botanical garden, and the great pleasure I had walking through the lanes, and looking at the plants that had been assembled from so many different places around the globe.

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Probably, what most impressed me on that visit, was that though I spent hours getting to know the many plants and trees, and some of the wildlife that found its way to that beautiful garden from the neighboring communities, I was only able to see part of what they offered. We keep thinking, if we go to the right address, we’ll see who lives there… but it’s not like that, really. We see a little bit, a side of the face… the way they feel that morning… and then if we want to know them better, we have to go back again and again to get to know them well.

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It is now really summer here in Jerusalem. One hot day is followed by the next. But it is quite pleasant. I live without air conditioning; with my windows opened wide in the summer months. And when there is no breeze, I don’t mind turning on a fan for a little artificial breeze. But I enjoy the weather thoroughly… both the long days, and the cool nights. I saw an owl the other day, and tried to provoke it to share with me some of its wisdom. But it chose to respond in silence.