The sound of silence

‘The flash of a neon light

That split the night

And touched the sound of silence.” Simon and Garfunkel.

It is Yom Kippur today, but when I wake up in the morning, the world is going about its regular activities. The hum of the cars on the street as noisy as every other morning, the phone is ringing, people come into our motel lobby for breakfast. It is difficult to remember that this is a special day. For one minute, I close my eyes and try to reconstruct that old feeling I remember so well from my childhood, the sense of touching the sound of silence.

Yom Kippur, when I was a kid growing up in Jerusalem, was always about the quiet. No one drove, and the streets were empty. No music, or TV or phone calls to shatter the silence. It always seemed as if the whole country was holding its breath, and in this quiet, one could hear its own breathing, its deepest thoughts. 

I remember the sharp split on both sides of the day. One minute the world was full of noise, then precisely on the declared hour, the noise ceased, and the stillness reigned. The same was the quick change the minute the day was over.  

A solemn and weighty day as if in this complete silence, without any noise, one became more visible. As if words had to be chosen with care, and movements carefully match the importance of the day. 

 The heaviness of the day had a whimsical face to it that as kids, we waited all year for it. Since no one was allowed to drive on Yom Kippur, there were no cars on the road. We could walk in the middle of the street and knew we were safe. The adults spent the day in the synagogue, going over all their bad deeds and asking for forgiveness, while we were free to cruise the streets with our friends. That strange mixture between the sternness of observing the religious rules, versus the freedom that the day gave us children never seemed to create confusion. One thing did not overstep the other. 

Until the Yom Kippur of 1973 when all the lines were ruptured. 

The morning of October 6th, 1973 was when for the first time in my life, I opened the radio on Yom-Kippur. The silence was interrupted by the announcer on the radio reading in a metallic voice, lists of passwords. All army units that were called in. Two hours later, I was on a bus going north, and at dusk, I saw the first tanks of my armored unit grinding the road with their chains on their way to the Golan Heights.

After that Yom Kippur was never the same.

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The Sound of Silence

I sought the ocean with its blue, touching blue

But in the winter the gray was pressing,

And during storms the hammering

Of the surfs, inside my head, drove me crazy.

I sought the lofty mountains penetrating the sky,

But they made me feel small and insignificant.

And I couldn’t walk up hills (never could), the thin air

And the height took my breath away.

Or perhaps the dense green forest alive with

Murmuring legends of lost princesses.

But no handsome prince rose to my rescue or a

Good-hearted monster. Not even a fire-spitting dragon.

The unending emptiness of the desert lured me once,

To follow mysterious barely marked trails,

Where echoes broke against sheer walls of black granite,

 Whispering, “go away…away…awa…”

In the end, it is with a thick book,

In front of the roaring fire hissing in the wood-stove,

And on the couch next to me, my cat’s purr joins

The melody of the rain tapping on the roof.

Sought Surrounding

Falling with grace

With aging, I hold on to what appears solid,

Life, once a fast-moving walkway, now less hurried,

& Still, it threatens my equilibrium.

When did my gait become so unsteady?

When did the question morph not to if, but to when?

When I’ll fall will it be with grace,

Will I remember, the art of falling safely,

Be smooth, don’t panic, stay loose…

 

The art of falling,

Is it a contradiction of words?

When the time comes,

Hitting the ground as gently as possible.

All that you need to learn is;

Be smooth, don’t panic, stay loose.

Don’t look back, grasping at gone moments

Open your fists, let them flutter away,

When you fall, give in to the fall.

Let grace take over. 

Falling with grace

The reds and the yellows

The lone red leaf on a soft mat of green that I detected this morning, is it a sign of fall?
“One swallow does not a summer make,” (Aristotle), a voice inside me resists. One red leaf does not herald a season just like one flake of snow is not a sign of a coming storm. I try to talk myself out of the winter coming predications, but I know I am fooling no one.
The reds and the yellows are a sure sign that the seasons are changing, there is no denying it.
I look at the goldenrods in my garden, now at the peak of their bloom, but my eyes are drawn to the top of the trees. Up there, I find the incriminating proof in the view of several branches that overnight turned a bronze-red.
“Just the weakest link,” is always a good explanation. Young branches turn red first, so do sick ones, but those resistant and hardened will not change till the end of September.
Almost convinced I walk in to pick up the motel phone to answer the question that in the following days will become more and more prevalent.
“So, when do you think it will be the best time to come see the leaves?”
The changing leaves, or as we call them, the fall foliage, are the big draw to our area in September and October.
Within night my husband and I become the ones to consult with regarding leaves. People from all corners of the US and often Europe who plan their fall vacation in our motel depend on our recollections of past years’ foliage and the forecast for the coming season.
Just like the infamous New-England weather, known for its capricious nature, the foliage can fool even the best of nature enthusiasts.
People reminisce about the ‘good’ years when the colors were so vibrant, they practically shimmered, and try to figure out the mysterious color quandary so they can predict the colors for the coming fall. The success rate is not very high, especially when the weather, in the last minute, decides to interfere, and a sudden storm knocks off all the leaves overnight.
Once September starts, we hold our breath and pray. For the weather to remain calm, for the winds to stir clear into the ocean. For the rain to hold on till the last leaf will land safely on the ground and for the sun to shine in a clear blue sky. This we discovered is the real secret for the assurance of good colors.

The Reds and the Yellows

The prize

A fusion of good and bad.

Of the shiny and the dull,

At times I cast my hook

To tempt the fish, I desire

Ask them to grant me a wish,

Or two, or more.

& promise to throw them back.

Fishing is about tenacity,

Dipping a hook into an unseen depth

Trusting in the possible, hoping

For a prize waiting at the end

Of the line.

Casting, and pulling out,

Disappointment not an option

Hope is the prominent tackle,

A golden fish is the prize.

The Prize

My kingdom for a lawn-mower

Mowing our extensive lawn is my acknowledged job. While we rotate other chores, no one will ever try to take that one away from me. I spend endless hours on the riding- mower and wonder time and time again how I was pulled into doing it almost from the moment we became the owners of this piece of land our motel occupies.

This is a complicated question seeing that I am so technically challenged. Every machine from the car I drive, out of pure necessity, to the printer in the office, even a simple stapler dares me to a mind duel, one I usually miserably loose.

Yet the lawn-mower is my private escape, my mode of deliverance, and in some odd way, my direct touch with nature from a safe and respected distance.

From the top of the mower, roaring along, there is no question that I am in control. I dictate the pace, the course, and the depth of the cut into the grassy lawn. I get to decide which part of the yard will be cut and which left to grow. Flowers nod their head with respect (perhaps fear) when I zoom next to them, and most of the small insects and other assorted living things, hiding in the tall grass, make sure to stay out of my way.

But it is also about bonding.

As I travel along, sideways, and around my kingdom, I can inspect and marvel at every small detail. Far but not really out of sight, I can see every blade of grass, every tiny flower, every new rock that emerged out of the earth to threaten my smooth sail along the lawn.

The newly planted flowering Weeping Willow trees I placed in the ground last fall after careful consideration of their growth rate and flowering ability, I ride by them to check their progress. I look with pride at the wild lilies I planted along the border, so small when I uprooted them from someone else’s garden they are now thriving in the wet environment next to the front conduit. The Nine Cattail that sways slowly in the breeze, my modest contribution to the assortment of flora in its muddy bottom.

 Back and forth, riding from one side of the lawn to another, I watch with satisfaction how the tiny blades of freshly cut grass are flying out of the mower’s side chute. Every few minutes, I look back over my shoulder at the clear lines I created in the overgrown grass. It’s the sense of fulfillment deriving from a task well done but also the pride of an artist inspecting his creation.

It is like an allegory I did not fully uncover, but one day will reveal itself to me and until then the lawn-mower, green and yellow John-Deere, and me, will keep on cruising along, from one side of the lawn to the other, keeping an eye on its inhabitants.

My Kingdom for a Lawn-mower

Human Connections

I reflect on a sentence I read on the front page of Yahoo while I stir the coffee and watch the milk swirls and changes the color from dark brown to tan.

“Human connections are important. Try to encompass at least ten of them every day.”

I wonder if I can accomplish this challenge without leaving my home on this dreary rainy day.

1.   The first thing I do is look at my cellphone– David from 7 cups is looking for me.

2.    I log into the site that connects volunteer listeners and members who need a captive listening ear. David and I have a short conversation about his aspirations to take on the world. He says he likes to talk to me, and this time he ends the conversation by himself. I joke about – David and Goliath – he gets it and sends a smiley.

3.    I check my online writing group, no one responded to my last post, so I move on.

4.    I send the daily Hebrew word to Sara. Later she will send me a letter composed of these words. Today’s word – The eye of the storm. She texts me a thumbs-up.

5.    An email from Beth. She just found in her DNA test that we are third cousins twice removed and is overcome with excitement. I suggest a few possible surnames for her to check. None fits she writes back, adding an icon of a sad face.

6.    An unknown caller from Honolulu. A formal, somewhat scary male voice announces that I should call back in the next 10 minutes; otherwise, the police will intervene. I know it is a prank call, but for a brief moment, I stop breathing. What if it is true?

Fifty-five minutes passed, and I scored six interactions, I am pleased and reward myself with another cup of coffee and yesterday’s donut.

7. In my Facebook, I find two birthday announcements and a picture from two years ago of my dog the day we got him. I send birthday wishes and marvel at how small he was only a short time ago.

8.   I sit down to write a long-delayed letter to my pen pal in Scotland. We’ve been corresponding for over twenty years. We’re doing it in the good old-fashioned way; paper, envelope, stamp then the wait.

9. My daughter calls to ask for a recipe. I pull my cookbook that is held together with will power and sticky fingers and read the ingredients to her. This is an old recipe my mother used to make. I am happy to pass it on and keep the generational food connection alive.

10. Outside on my birdfeeder, yellow Goldfinch shares the grains with a small red squirrel. Above them, on a bent branch, a blazing red Cardinal performs its metallic chip. Patches of bright colors against the gray backdrop. I snap a quick picture. Later I will post it on Facebook.

Outside the rain keeps coming down.

Human Connections