Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rhymes with “Pretty”

I’ve been sick all this month.

It started with a sore throat that wouldn’t go away. At one point, during the night it got so bad that I went to the emergency clinic. They did a throat culture. It turned out negative. The diagnosis: a virus. Nothing to be done, and it would go away in its own sweet time. They recommended painkillers.

The pain in my throat decreased but remained steady for some weeks afterward. I went back to my doctor, who took another throat culture, which also turned out to be negative.

Have I mentioned that I really, really dislike throat cultures?

And then, before the pain in my throat fully went away, things started to heat up last night. Literally. To the tune of a one-hundred-degree fever (thirty-eight degrees Celsius), and sinus trouble.

I have skin cream, eye pillows and a soap batch to make, and some sewing to do. I was going to do all of that, or at least most of it, tonight after Shabbat. And, of course, there’s work. But the way I’m feeling now, there’s no way I can do any of it. A fever makes it impossible for me to focus enough to get anything done. (It’s taking me lots more than effort than usual to write this post.) Plus, it hurts.

I’ve been told that there are all kinds of viruses going around, and that lots of people have been sick for a long time. I have to admit that it’s slightly comforting to know that I’ve just got something common, but still, it’s no fun at all.

So how do I feel?

See above title.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rosh Hodesh Nissan

It’s the first day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, which means: two weeks until Pessah!

Here is a photo from this morning at the Western Wall: a woman reads from a hand-scribed scroll of the Song of Songs.

Scroll of Song of Songs, Western Wall, Jerusalem

The beginning of the second paragraph reads: “My beloved, you are as lovely as Tirza, as beautiful as Jerusalem....”

(You can see the writing on the scroll much more clearly here.)

And while we’re on the subject of Rosh Hodesh Nissan, head over here for a refresher about birkat ha-ilanot, the blessing over fruit trees in bloom, which may be made throughout the month of Nissan—though there is a strong custom to recite it on the first day.

Green-Eyed Neighborcat

I saw this emerald-eyed beauty in the neighborhood the other day:

Green-eyed neighborcat

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Recent Photos

A scarlet pimpernel, one of my favorite flowers. Their presence in Jerusalem is as brief as the Israeli spring, so I enjoy them while I can.

Scarlet pimpernel

A bee above a sorrel blossom:

Bee above sorrel

A bee heading toward an anemone. Check out the wing motion.

Bee on red

A palm dove eats brunch downtown:

Palm dove eating brunch

Another bee above another sorrel blossom:

Bee over sorrel

More photos here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Around and About

Lots of flowers this week.

Astragalus amid the lavender:

Astragalus among the lavender

Don’t sit on this one:




The ladybug tried to hide, but my lens caught it:


Common chamomile:

White and gold

This one reminds me of a tiny sun, though I don’t know what it is:

A tiny sun

Bright Eyes

Two Jerusalem cats looking out into the night:

Bright eyes

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Hello Again

When I was in second grade in New York, I knew a boy named Garry Novikoff who played guitar and sang with a maturity far beyond his years. He impressed me quite a bit with his musical abilities and I wanted to impress him back, so one day, during a break in class, I sang him the refrain of a song that my mother had just taught me, “Jamaica Farewell.”

“No, that’s not how it goes,” Garry said, and proceeded to spin out a line of music that soared above the melody that my mother had taught me.

I thought and thought... and finally realized that Garry and I were both right. Those lines of music belonged together! That was my first exposure to vocal harmony—but then the teacher called the class to order and I never got to sing the song together with Garry.

When I moved away from my neighborhood that summer, I never saw Garry, or any of my friends from that time, again. It was 1972. There was no Internet, no email, no chat software—just exorbitant long-distance rates, since Ma Bell was still the only game in town.

Still, I remembered Garry and wondered what had become of him. Many years later, once I had Internet access, I looked for him every so often, but without success. About a week ago, I found him. After almost thirty-seven years, we’re back in touch.

Garry’s website, which includes clips of his excellent songs, is here. His debut CD, “A Normal Life,” is available here (yup, at CD Baby, same place as mine!). Like my friend, singer-songwriter Sandy Cash, who lives just down the road a piece, he is a protégé of Christine Lavin. And yes, he still sings “Jamaica Farewell,” which means that I have another dream to add to my stash: to sing it together with him one day, with the harmony that he taught me all those years ago.

How about it, Garry? When you’re done with your three-week residency at Caffe Vivaldi (congratulations!), there are lots of excellent English-speaking folk-music venues in this neck of the woods....

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Thank You to an Awesome Community

(Graphic lovingly created by KC of Missy, KC, Bear)

Once again, I have reason to be grateful to the community of catbloggers on the Net.

Thank you, Nikita, for your caring and condolences. Thank you, KC, for the sweet graphic in Missy’s memory that you posted at the Cat Blogosphere.

Thank you, Laurence, King of Catbloggers, for remembering Missy even as you celebrate the arrival of your sweet new kitten, Bruwyn. May his life with you be long, healthy and happy... and I am so glad that he and Nardo are getting along.

As we say in Hebrew, aharon aharon haviv (i.e., the last-mentioned is the most beloved, or last but not least): thank you, everyone who left condolences in the comments. I will pass them on to Missy’s human companion, who misses her very much.

Thank you all. The community of cat lovers on the Net is truly awesome.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Missy, of Blessed Memory

Missy the model

Missy: 2006—March 15, 2009

Very sad news: my friend’s cat, lovable, delightful Missy, has died. The probable cause is rat poison, which people sometimes put out in their gardens in order to deal with pests, with sometimes tragic results. It appears that this is one of those times.

Although the vet worked all morning to save her, despite his best efforts Missy died at around noon today.

I’m in shock. I still can’t get my mind around the fact that I will never see Missy again.

Here are some pictures of her:

As a kitten, play-menacing her older housemate, Her Ladyship:

I'm gonna get you!

Accepting skritches from me:

Skritches for Missy

Waiting for my friend, her human companion, to come home at the end of the day:

Green eyes, blue eyes

Going into hunting mode when something caught her attention:

Missy in the garden

Missy always gave me her best poses. My camera loved her, and so did I.

Rest well, sweet cat. You were deeply loved, and you will be sadly missed.

Barukh dayyan ha-emet. Blessed be the True Judge.

From the Photo File

An old wooden sign in the doorway of a local grocery store:

Sign in grocery store

A wild oat in flower:

Wild oat in blossom

A bee on a sorrel flower. Check out those pollen baskets!

Bee on sorrel blossom

Common grape hyacinth blooms:

Blue blossoms

Closeup of a white anemone:

White on white

And to bring us back to the wingèd theme of the first picture above, a parakeet about to enter her nest:

Entering the nest

Yup, definitely a batch for the next JPix carnival!

Haveil Havalim #208 Is Up

The current edition of Haveil Havalim is up at Just Call Me Chaviva. Thank you, Chaviva!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Red Sky over Gilo

Taken just after sunset, at the home of friends who live in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood:

Red sky over Gilo

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Bit of Tail for Purim

A bit of tail

You were expecting something else, maybe? Hey, this is still a family-friendly blog!

More photos below the fold....

Missy whaps me with her tail to keep me in line:

Owner of the tail

Missy at the gate...

Missy at the gate

... and in the garden:

Missy in the garden

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Little-Known Story for Purim

I’ll bet that most of my readers have no idea that according to a little-known Hasidic rebbe, a popular American folk song is nothing less than an allegory of Jewish history.

It seems that during the mid-nineteenth century, an American musician of Jewish background who had traveled to the Ottoman Empire for a series of performances found himself stranded when a major gig fell through and his impresario went bankrupt. During his efforts to play and sing his way back to the United States, he passed through the Land of Israel, which was then under Turkish rule. There he met the fervently Zionist Ailurolover Rebbe, who had made aliya from Eastern Europe some years before together with his wife and children, a small circle of devoted followers, and his beloved cat, Geula.

On a bright, brisk day in March, the musician visited the Ailurolover Rebbe at his home and found him sharing a meal with his family and students. On hearing that it was the holiday of Purim and that the Ailurolover Rebbe loved animals, particularly cats, the musician offered to sing an American folk song that was popular at the time, a lighthearted tune appropriate to the day. He was totally unprepared for the Rebbe’s reaction.

It is said that on hearing the song “The Cat Came Back” (or, perhaps more accurately, its impromptu translation into Yiddish), the Ailurolover Rebbe was at first stunned into silence and then burst into tears.

“But of course!” he cried. “This holy niggun, this sacred melody, contains nothing less than the story of the Jewish people, rendered into a simple folk song so that it might be more easily transmitted to the next generation safe from the ears of those who would harm us. Listen!” And he asked the musician to sing the first several lines of the song for him once more.

Now old Mister Johnson had troubles of his own:
He had a little yellow cat who wouldn’t leave his home.
He tried and tried and tried and tried to give the cat away....

“Don’t you see?” the Ailurolover said, an unearthly light breaking over his face. “Mister Johnson, the cat’s master, is the Master of the Universe. The little cat is—who else?—the Jewish people. And why is the little cat yellow? It is a tikkun—a rectification—of the sin of the Golden Calf. You will remember that when Moses went up to Mount Sinai to receive the Law from God, the Israelite men, thinking that he had abandoned them and disappeared, gave their gold jewelry to Aaron, telling him to make an idol out of it. But the faithful women refused to surrender their gold for such a base purpose, choosing to donate it instead for the construction of God’s Tabernacle later on. So the little cat in the song is yellow in order to remind us that God has given us the ability to choose whether we will use our gold—that is, our resources, our skills and abilities—for good or for evil. As it says in our sacred writings: ‘All is foreseen, yet freedom of choice is given.’

“Now, what is happening in this little song? The master is trying to give his cat away. This is the Master of the Universe sending his beloved children, the Nation of Israel, into exile. Why? Because we sinned, we turned away from Him, and we deserved to be punished. Ah, so sad to send us away! So sad to send away the poor yellow cat!”

It is said that at this point the Ailurolover, overcome with emotion, paused to sip some water. As he did so, his cat, Geula (whom all the surviving writings about the Ailurolover describe as a male gray tabby shorthair), jumped onto his lap and lay down, purring loudly. As he always did when Geula jumped onto his lap during such gatherings, the Ailurolover began singing his Geula Niggun, his unique Melody of Redemption—which, unfortunately, has since been lost—with his students and companions. After its last notes had faded, he continued:

“And now listen to the secret of this sacred song from America. What does its refrain tell us, over and over? What is its message? The cat came back the very next day! No matter what happens to the little yellow cat, no matter what all the wicked people in the song try to do to it, it never dies! It always returns! And so it is with our people. We are the cat, my children, we are the cat! No matter what suffering may have been decreed for us, no matter how many Hamans rise up to destroy us, we never die! We always come back the very next day!”

And, gently swaying, the Ailurolover Rebbe concluded:

“And who gives us this wonderful ability to come back, my children? Who gives us the strength to survive the wicked boy in the boat—that is, the Egyptians—and the train that went off the track—that is, the Romans? Our Father, our Master! Though He banished us, He never abandoned us. He who sent us away will one day bring us back! Does it not say in our holy writings: ‘Though I turned away from you in a moment of anger, I will have mercy upon you with everlasting love’?”

It is said that at this point, the musician—who had been following the Rebbe’s discourse with the help of one of his students, who provided an ongoing translation into English—asked:

“But Rebbe, if the song is really a retelling of Jewish history, and if the Jewish nation always survives the attempts of all who would destroy it, then why doesn’t the song tell us at the end that the cat found a home where it was safe from danger?”

“Ah, my son, have we yet found a home?” the Rebbe answered sadly. “You ask about a great and secret thing: the final Redemption, for which we all wait and yearn, for which we pray every single day. And it will come, though we cannot know when.” As his students looked on in astonishment, the Rebbe poured a small amount of wine from his glass into the musician’s cup and signaled for him to drink. “My dear child, that verse shall yet be written in the Messianic Era. And who knows? Maybe you will be the one to write it.”

It is said that from that moment, the musician became a follower of the Ailurolover Rebbe and remained in the Land of Israel for the rest of his life, writing songs of such beauty that the birds would stop their singing in order to listen... when they were not busy being chased by Geula and his many descendants.

Here is the version of “The Cat Came Back” that our stranded musician probably played for the Ailurolover Rebbe that long-ago Purim. It’s not the same tune we know today.

Happy Purim!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Missy among the Tulips

For your delectation: Missy among the tulips.

Tulip kitty

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The JPIX Carnival Is Up

The Spring in Israel edition of the JPIX Carnival is up at Here in HP. Thanks to Leora for a great roundup!