Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Friday, April 24, 2009

From My Window

This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 28 September 2005.

Those of us who don't have a spectacular, panoramic view from our windows might tend to become blase about what we do see when we glance outside. Normally, when I sit at our dining table and look through the windows, I see our own backyard, the roofs of neighboring houses, trees and small patches of sky. Today, however, we looked out and got a special treat: this kingfisher. While I am not normally a bird-lover, this little fellow got me thinking.

Things that we see and hear day after day tend to become part of the backdrop of our lives. It takes something just a bit unusual to remind us of things we've become accustomed to ignoring. We take for granted the drone of airplanes above us until one day the scream of a jet and the sonic boom that often accompanies it jolts us.

Kids laughing, dogs barking, and grownups gossiping are all part of my everyday background music. Those mundane sounds are a sign that all is well and life proceeds in its usual way. Then the parents two houses down go out of town, and their teenage boys throw a party with music loud enough to melt your ears. Or the Defense Minister decides that if the children in Sderot can't sleep at night thanks to the Kassam rockets being fired at their town, then neither should the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad sleep. Last night we heard the heavy thrum of helicopters overhead several times, so the morning's news came as no surprise.

I've learned to discern the nuances between similar sounds, as well. One siren usually means someone has had a heart attack or an accident. Several sirens may well mean another terrorist attack has just taken place. I can now even tell the difference between the search and rescue helicopters and the Cobras and Apaches on their way to or from a mission.

Although the view from my window is rather limited, it does change with the passing months. The leaves turn and fall from some of the trees as winter approaches. Our trees, and those of our neighbors, continue to grow and obscure more of the surrounding houses. In spring we count the blossoms on our fruit trees, and anticipate the summer harvest. And of course, as summer approaches I closely examine the progress of the plums on the branches of neighbor Chaim's tree that overhang our yard.

Then there are the cats. There are alot of wild cats in Israel, and many of them have decided to use our backyard as a sort of thoroughfare. They tiptoe along the tops of the fences. The scamper across the back wall as they pass from one neighbor's yard to another. Occasionally a particularly brave one may settle down for a snooze in our flower beds, or approach the barbecue, sniffing for something to munch. Occasionally there are battles, and sometimes come morning we discover a flurry of feathers scattered across our patio. We have watched many kittens grow to adulthood over the years. Most of these feline wayfarers are on their way to Chaim's house, where food and water are always available for them.

These homey sights and sounds are a soothing sign that life is going smoothly. It is easy to become complacent about these things, to accept them as our due and come to disregard them. It takes an escalation of the normal, or perhaps something completely out of the ordinary, to remind me that even the commonplace things should be valued. I am going to try to pay more attention to the song of the birds in the morning, or the shapes of the clouds that often appear come evening. Simple pieces of beauty ought to be appreciated and enjoyed. This is what the kingfisher taught me.

(c)Amy Samin

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