Posts Tagged ‘nature’


I’ve been enthralled by the volume of snow dumped on the US (and New England, in particular) this winter, and have posted several times on the subject.  But Wednesday, my inbox had an unexpected treat for spring, a photo taken by Yehoshua Halevi of poppies in the Ela Valley (taken 2007), near Beit Shemesh where I used to live.  I always loved spring in Oregon and New England, where first the snowdrops would appear (in February, yet), then the crocuses and daffodils, followed by the tulips and irises, and finally the lilacs would give one splashes of color and sometimes heady scents carried on the breezes.  But early spring in Israel has its own charm, with almond trees blossoming, cyclamen bursting forth from the rocky soil, and anemones and poppies dotting the fields and roadsides.  This lush photo of poppies is Israel at its greenest and most luxuriant; take it in while you can, because once the hot winds hit in late March and April, things begin to dry out again and the green is gone for the next seven or eight months.  (A word about the Ela Valley: The winery there puts out the most magnificent chardonnay I’ve ever tasted.  Most chardonnay doesn’t appeal to me because of its sharpness, but the Ela Valley chardonnay is smooth, fragrant, and mellow.  I highly recommend it.)

Thanks to Yehoshua for letting me post the photo here.  You may notice I have added his weekly photo blog to my blogroll; I encourage you to click on it periodically to see what gorgeous images of Israel, the holidays, and the people here he has on view.

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Winter at Darlington Hall

We haven’t had much of a winter in Israel (do we ever?), and for some reason, my thoughts have been turning to the real winter in the Northeast where most of my family and friends live.  I’ve been singing “Let It Snow” to the kids at bedtime, and hearing with mingled amusement and envy about friends whose kids are home for snow days (though that envy has dissipated by the fifth straight snow day).  There have been a couple of vaguely forecasted snow days for Efrat, but none have actually produced anything white.

While I have a few content-oriented posts percolating in my wee little brain, I am a bit mired down in transcribing and editing (my new stab at work).  So in lieu of a real post, I’ll share with you some photos of my parents’ home and environs taken by my father in the last few days.  Those of you in New England will roll your eyes in recognition, but for those of you on the West Coast, in Israel, or in the southern hemisphere, they may inspire a nostalgia for the winters of old (or never, as the case may be).

Note: Those who are familiar with Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day will recognize the name of the country home where it’s set, Darlington Hall, which is also my pet name for my parents’ house on 10 acres in southern Vermont.

Road to Darlington Hall

Darlington Hall from the road

The farm "next door"

Seeing these images makes me wonder if it wouldn’t be worth a trip back to the US in the winter sometime so the kids can see real snow, experience a cup of cocoa by a fireplace, and sled down the hill with their cousins.  School, travel-adverse weather, and other things come in conflict with such a trip, but still, I wonder…

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“Open winter”

I’m in possession of my great-aunt’s copy of the Bible, published in 1868.  This King James translation, gently used and lovingly re-covered by my mother (a skilled bookmender), has color pictures throughout of the life of Jesus, a few tattered ribbons marking pages, one ball-point pen marking (arcing the verse from Micah which says, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”), and a very interesting clipping from an unknown Vermont newspaper (perhaps the Orleans Chronicle), of unknown date.  Here is how it reads:

“This an open winter?”

This office is in receipt of a letter from Dwight H. Squires of Ogdensburg, N. Y., formerly of Derby [Vt.], in which he enclosed a clipping from “The Advance News” of Ogdensburg, N. Y., which classed the weather in Vermont the past three months as an open winter as compared with that of 1862.

“This winter we think that we have been getting a lot of snow but after reading the following paragraph taken from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, published at New York on April 26, 1862, it appears that this could be called an ‘open’ winter:

‘SNOW—The snowfall during the past winter has been very heavy throughout Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Northern New York.  In Peacham, Vt. the people for a long time used their chamber windows for doors, and the orchards were so buried that the tops of the trees appeared like bushes, the uppermost twigs only, rising above the snow.  One drift in Troy was tunneled for a distance of over 50 rods [825 feet, or 251 meters], and loads of hay, wood, etc., passed through.  In Newport a large drift was excavated so as to make a room 60 feet by 40 feet [18 meters by 12 meters], and 18 feet [5.5 meters] high in the center.  In this room a festival was held, 180 ladies and gentlemen being present.  Two large tables were spread and the snow palace was illuminated by twelve hanging lamps.’”

When I wrote my mother to tell her about the clipping, she responded, “And if you have a newsclipping about a snowstorm from Aunt Reet, that couldn’t come close to matching the snowstorm in the 1880s when Grandma McDanolds wrote about it [in New Hampshire].  THAT was a snowstorm!!  Socked everyone in for a week or so, couldn’t even get to the barn to milk the cows for a couple of days, and when it finally stopped snowing, Grandma and Uncle Harry climbed up it to mark on the tree where the top of the snow was.  Later, when it had all melted (I think it took until May), it was 35 ft high.  Incredible.  Even this winter has been bad everywhere, but especially New England.  CT usually gets about 41″ of snow, this year so far they have something like 89″.  (Or maybe it’s 49 and 81, but whatever.)”

I stay in touch with my shul community from Newton, Mass., by following the shul’s chat list.  The big theme in the past few weeks has been snow: borrowing roof rakes to get the heavy snow off before the next blizzard comes and dumps another load on it, trying to keep the gutters from clogging with ice, and how and when to file insurance claims for ice-damage to gutters.  (The insurance companies say not to bother to file a claim now, since more snow is probably on the way, but to wait until the spring when all the damage is done, then file one claim.)  And with all the snow days, friends on Facebook are having to entertain homebound children with cabin fever, getting behind in their own work, and generally pining for a thaw.

I miss snow, sometimes.  But not that much snow.

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Nasty commute

This is a photo sent my mother by a friend from her hometown in northern Vermont.  On the one hand, I envy that amount of precipitation.  On the other hand, I am grateful not to have to shovel the little precip. we do get here.

Ah, the wonder of nature.  Just wait until spring comes.  Now where did I put my canoe?

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Zionist animal spies

Sometimes I close my eyes and wonder if all the wild accusations against Israel are really true.  Has the unresolved Israeli-Arab conflict really exacted an unconscionable toll in American blood and treasure?  Is the Zionist conspiracy to control the world real?  Is Israel really the only thing that stands between humankind and world peace?  Have I been hoodwinked by what seems like a normal life, among normal people, in a country nominally recognized by the United Nations of Planet Earth?

And then I look at what Israel’s enemies actually accuse it of.  In December, Egypt’s Sinai riviera suffered a series of shark attacks which they accused Israel’s Mossad agency of unleashing to hurt Egyptian tourism.  (Watch the Colbert Nation report here.)  And earlier this month, a vulture with a GPS monitor chip on its Tel Aviv University leg tag inspired Saudi Arabia to conclude that the vulture was a Zionist spy.  (Again, Colbert covers it here.)

As Stephen Colbert warns, “I say we keep an eye on the Israelis.  Arab governments have already proven they control the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.  It’s only a matter of time until they get the beasts of the land, too.  Pigs, you’re the only ones we can trust.”

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Oregon, my Oregon

Moving around the US as much as my family did when I was young, it’s not easy to come up with an answer to the question, “Where are you from?”  On the one hand, I am tempted to answer “Boston,” since that’s where the Cap’n and I lived for many years before making aliyah.  But despite my Vermonter mother and the fact that our ancestors arrived on the Mayflower, no one could mistake me for a New Englander.  I’m no Southerner (we only lasted two years in Georgia), nor a Coloradan, nor a Californian.  I was born in Seattle, but my family left before I was a year old.

That leaves Oregon, where I spent six years as a child and another twelve on and off as an adult.  I worked there, made friends, and got to know the place better than any other state I’ve lived in.  My friend Kathy and I would make day trips to the coast, to Astoria, to Warm Springs.  I skied on Mount Hood, hiked in the Columbia Gorge, stayed on the Metolius River, visited Sisters with my family, drifted down the Deschutes River with my father, attended a play at the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.  Portland was my stomping ground for many years, going to movies at the Movie House (an indie theater that doubled as the Portland Women’s Club, where the lobby was full of squishy armchairs, board games, and a fireplace); the opera; hiking in Forest Park and Tryon Creek State Park; visiting the zoo and the Forestry Center; strolling through the Rose Test Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, and the Japanese Garden; and enjoying the wide variety of great restaurants including our family’s favorites: Swagat (south Indian, located in Beaverton), Kashmir (Pakistani), Al-Amir (Lebanese), and Mykonos (Greek).

With the cooler weather coming here in Efrat, I am reminded that there was never a bad season in Oregon.  Summers were sometimes late (beginning in July some years), but warm and dry.  Autumn was cool and crisp, with a dizzying variety of apples (with which my family would make homemade cider).  Winter was cool and drizzly much of the time, but we got the occasional snow around New Year’s which made the place a wonderland.  (When my parents moved back to Oregon my last year of college, they bought a house atop a steep hill with a panoramic view of Mount Hood out the living room window.  It snowed that winter, and my entire family—Irish setter included—sledded down the steep hill in the middle of the night.)  And spring was magical, with fragrant daffodils blooming, the delicate smell from the flowering crabapple tree drifting through my open window, and the “Chiddle-urp! chiddle-urp! chiddle-urp!” of robins in the morning.

While Seattle was very hip in the 1990s for its grunge scene, Starbuck’s coffee, and crunchy, flannel-wearing Northwest character, Oregon has its share of attractions.  It’s always been a place where beer is beloved, with the Anheuser-Busch brewery right behind Powell’s Bookstore downtown, and microbreweries everywhere.  Windsurfers flock from all over the world to surf the powerful winds of the Columbia Gorge.  And those interested in natural beauty can find desert, lakes, old-grown forests, mountains, beaches, and rivers to explore.  Portland has more annual rainfall than Seattle, but growing up with that much rain taught me never to be put off by it.  (The Cap’n and I were once expecting Shabbat guests, but the torrential rain that day kept them at home.  We, on the other hand, NEVER missed a social engagement due to rain.  There is a Minnesotan expression, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”)  Rain, after all, is an excellent excuse for hot chocolate.

I once heard a talk by a local rabbi who was new to Portland.  He remarked on the magnificent view of Mount Hood from the city of Portland and wondered aloud when the wonder of it wears off.  The audience chuckled and murmured, “Never.”  I could say the same for the rest of the state.  Since in the American psyche, Oregon is one of those tucked-away places, like Wyoming, Delaware, and Nebraska, I’ll share a few photos of the place (from the Web):

Oregon coastline


Japanese Gardens, Portland

The Salmon River

Rose Test Garden, Portland

My children occasionally ask me if I miss America.  I can’t deny that I do sometimes, and that my yearning is not eased by the knowledge that I may never see Oregon again more than once, perhaps twice.  But I hope one day, on one of our family’s rare trips to the US, to take my children to see it.

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Tagging bears

My father sends me lots of cool (and sometimes weird) stuff.  The video below shows a segment from the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s “Rick Mercer Report” where the host trudges out into the snows of Algonquin Park to tag newborn black bear cubs.  Between Mercer’s humor, nutty Canadian accent, and the magnificence of the Park in winter, I call it a very cool armchair adventure.

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