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What I See at the Secret Hour

I first make out a couple of cats, going along on the sidewalk below. For them, that “the winter is past” is good tidings indeed. There’s a plague of stray cats in this land; so it was when I moved here 28 years ago, and there’s been no progress. I’ve stood at this window in winter, in dawns no less compelling in their way — and just gone back to bed, not wanting to have pleasant thoughts while they’re roaming out there exposed to the cruel cold.

And now “The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell….” Now the dull silver is giving way to something more like shy blue, and I start to make out greenery. More birds are singing; there’s a sense of bounty and mercy out there. It’s not the whole story, but it’s part of it.

When we first came here, in September 1984, it was to an absorption center for immigrants outside the town of Hadera in the coastal plain. For the first time, I heard Hebrew all around me. Hadera in those days still had some of the character of a lazy farming town — crates for oranges lying by the side of the road, storks riding on the backs of cows in lush fields. Sitting in a park at night, I’d think of the ancient Hebrews who were here two thousand years ago; their language being spoken around me, the selfsame holidays being celebrated, the selfsame vegetation blooming. I would simply sit and try to take it in.

Now, out there, I can make out the tawny stone and red roofs of the nearby houses. Birds, as they do before the sun, careening in the sky with what looks like enthusiasm. Not that sunrise is imminent; it’s time now for that long wait, a kind of stasis, as “another day / Prepares for heat and silence.” Another day of doing things I love — writing, playing the piano, playing with my cat, seeing Tami in the evening. A sense of blessings and bounty.