Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

on fish and humming birds

May 24, 2017

28 Iyar 5777 Scottsdale

Funny sometimes how Man and animals interact. I noticed at the piling of Chaparral Road Bridge, in the canal, some large fish. They are big fish, over 30 inches long, if you threw one at your friend, it would likely knock him over. At first I thought they were spawning there, but having checked on them regularly for many weeks, I see that they are just always there. It protects them from the current, and in this man-made canal, there is not much else to hide behind. It is a really artificial situation; a man-made canal, and then these poor fish are “stocked” into it, and then they have no place to hang out except behind a piling.

On a more positive nature note, I made a discovery (for me, not science) about hummingbirds. Since I always see them sticking their beaks into the honeysuckle flowers in the backyard, I thought they must only eat nectar. But no. It turns out they mostly eat bugs. How did I discover this? I was sitting under some trees near a small pond in Chaparral Park, and the hummingbirds come there and keep going near leaves. I am thinking, what are these hummingbirds dumb? There are no flowers here! But then watching carefully I see they are stirring up little insects, which they then catch. Then I checked online and saw that indeed it is a common misconception that they eat only nectar. They eat both insects and nectar. Now you know!

By the way, standing under that tree, one flew about a foot from my face! They are a lot of fun to watch, and don’t mind you hanging around.

Image result for hummingbirdsphoto: national zoo


Bald Eagle

May 14, 2017

15 Iyar 5777, Hanoch Ne’eman, Scottsdale

Some nights ago, without me hearing it, it rained here. Let me tell you, there were a lot of happi cacti out there on the morrow. The Saguaros were simply swelling with joy. The air smelled beautiful too. Had to clean the dust marks of the car, but that was a small price to pay.

Two Shabboses before today, I took a walk down to Hayden Road in the late afternoon.

Image result for rain on cactus

Elizabeth Rose – photo

I walked along Hayden Road, with its heavy traffic, up to Jackrabbit Road, then turned back. As I get closer to Chaparral Road, I see, atop a tall wooden electric pole, a very large bird. “What might that be?”, I think, “a turkey vulture or a heron, looking for fish in Chaparral Pond which is just on the other side of the street?” Getting closer, slowly, I see it is a bald eagle! And I know what they look like, because I saw them and photographed them years ago on my Aunt’s property in Vermont.

Before long the eagle got uneasy and took off. It circled high over the lake a few passes, not diving for anything, and then kept flying off. It was about 24 inches from head to toe. He kept flying off, heading north, sort of veering back and forth. I could easily still see him over a mile away.

Rav Kook wrote in 5668 (1908) in Jaffa:

The longing for freedom will reach its peak, and Man will realize that he is entitled to live in his spirit (inside) as he actually is, according to the desire of the mighty nature of his living soul – and this soul lives only in G-d. Without deep, vibrant faith, this soul has no life or light. It is fleeting as a shadow, oppressed by a terrible suffering, and parched with cruel thirst. Who would prevent her? Who would not allow her to live in G-d? Who would drive this sky bird from her nest? Who would put her in prison? Who would stop her from cruising the full expanses of heaven, the place of splendor and fresh air, full of light and life?   (Orot, pg. 218)

Yes, we should be privileged to see the eagles soaring every shabbos, wherever we are!

citrus sunblock

April 24, 2017

13th day of Omer Hanoch N. Scottsdale

Arizona gets so hot that people put sun protection on their tree trunks. For example, if a grapefruit tree has spaces in its crown where sunlight can reach the trunk, people paint the trunk white so it does not get damaged. Some rock and sand surfaces in the summer sun can reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius).

At least it is good for drying clothes. And inspires me to build home in desert in Israel.


September 26, 2016

20 Elul 5776 Hanoch Ne’eman, Scottsdale, AZ

I saw it from the window of the Southwest Airlines jet when I arrived the day before. Now, as I lie in bed shortly before sunrise, I knew it was out there, beyond the shutters and windowpanes. As if Hashem might be calling me: Chanoch, come worship me on the mountain…

Camelback Mountain. I opened the slats of the shutters and saw it towering there in the distance, beyond the fifty foot palm trees and twenty foot saguaro cacti. At seven a.m. I get up, get dressed in shorts, two pairs of socks, running shoes, short sleeve polo shirt, neckerchief, visor cap and sunglasses. Put my driver’s license in my shirt pocket and secured it with a paper clip. Fill water bottle to leave in car. Out the door. Into the Honda Element.

Park on Invergordon Road at 7:45 am. Jog to start of Cholla Trail. Set off. Instantly you are hiking over big square rocks. You rise above the golf course below. Before long you see the Phoenician Hotel sprawled out at the base of the mountain. In the distance, at eye-level, I see planes landing at Phoenix airport.

It is hard to keep to the trail in places, it is all brown rock and dirt and the vegetation is sparse. I hop like a mountain goat from dirt to rock. After twenty minutes I start to lose my breath and have to slow down. Up and down goes the trail, following the Camel’s back. Now it’s up up up for the final ascent. Hawks soar to the left, and a helicopter flies past too, some 200 feet below you. Finally, forty -seven minutes after leaving the car, I reach the summit. A dozen hikers sit or stand there, clad in spandex and water packs, admiring the 360 degree view of maybe a hundred miles in each direction. Downtown Phoenix looks like a Lego set. Two chipmunks are there too, working the crowd. It is past 8:30, so I say the three paragraphs of Shema, as I have not davened yet.

I tarry for two to three minutes and then start my descent, retracing my steps. Going down is the fun part. Gravity pulls you back, is your co-pilot. I wear gloves in case I fall, as well as for gripping rocks. Instinct reigns. It is a skill we probably all have but most don’t use it. It is used in rock climbing too. Your brain calculates things you do not have time to think fully about. You are flying down a mountain, a rock-strewn trail, often sheer rock face, and your feet are like two sensors; tapping, hovering, braking, slipping and recovering, carrying you down in what is better called a controlled fall than a run. It feels like a space shuttle re-entering the atmosphere and hurtling toward the desert floor.

I again get out of breath and have to slow down. My legs are wobbly. I don’t have a water bottle as the run is short and holding it will mess up my balance. I need to be light like a bird.

After thirty one minutes of descent, I am back at the car. No falls, Baruch Hashem. Now I drive home, take a dip in the pool, and daven shacharis with exceptional kavana. Camelback smiles in the distance.


ET local call

August 8, 2016

4 Av 5776, Hanoch Ne’eman, Jerusalem

On Day Five of last week I was working in a Katamon garden. On part of the property sits a smaller guest house, behind which a mother cat and her kittens will sometimes take up uninvited residence. As I am watering a corner with the garden hose, I see a tiny, probably few-day old kitten sitting on the floor looking up at me with large wondering eyes.

The creature sitting there looking at me was so odd and marvelous, I thought, that if someone had told me it had just landed in a spaceship, I could have believed it.

astronauts born

March 11, 2016

1 Adar Bet 5776 Jerusalem Hanoch Ne’eman (c)

These astronauts came back from Space this week, where two of them had been for 340 days.

Getting used to gravity, they look like dazed babies in the newborn ward.

What a metaphor for birth! For “coming down” into this world!

photo: NPR News


photo: ABC News

Green, Green, Green

February 16, 2016

7 Adar 5776 Yerushalayim Chanoch Ne’eman

Arrived back in Israel a week ago today. When our plane (the El Al Tel Aviv-Yafo) was circling into the airport, I looked out the window and was thinking, “This place looks like New Zealand.” The gentleman sitting next to me, by the window, who has led some seventy tours to Israel, thought we must have taken a different approach to the airport than normal. But it wasn’t. It was just that the normally brown hills were all green. From all the rain this winter. Here in Jerusalem too. For example, the hills below Har Zion; all green.

Even at the Kotel this shabbos morning I saw green weeds growing out from the stones in places where there normally aren’t any.


February 7, 2016

28 Shevat 5776 Scottsdale, AZ Chanoch Ne’eman

Since it is the night after Shabbat (Sat. night) here in Arizona, and we said not long ago in Havdala, “Who distinguishes between light and darkness” it is a good time to say a word in praise of darkness. Since it is the end of the lunar month now, and therefore the moon is small, it is pretty dark here when I go out. That is helped by the fact that this neighborhood does not have street lights; rather each home is required to have a small pole with a light on it at the end of the driveway. It allows you to see the darkness much better. I believe it is healthy to see the light during the day, and to experience the darkness at night. In a light-polluted city at night, one is missing out. Variety is good.


February 4, 2016

25 Shevat 5776 Scottsdale AZ Chanoch Ne’eman (c)

My Father and I went a bit up Camelback Mountain this afternoon. It’s fun to try to jog run going up or down. Fell once. As soon as you go a little up you have a great view of the whole valley. I know this is what the Negev will look like too in the future. The cool weather here made for excellent hike conditions.

Working on my papers for school too. That is such and important skill for me – being able to integrate the desk work and some outdoor activity or exercise. The lack of that skill contributed to me to me leaving law school during my first year years ago. Also living in Manhattan was part of that stress out. All the respect to those who are able to do that. It can be done. It is a big challenge.

Camelback Mountain 2

sleep little birdie, do not cry

January 15, 2016

5 Shevat 5776 Jerusalem  Hanoch Ne’eman

I saw some guys like this here in Jerusalem too this week.

reprinted from HaModia Online:

A cloud-like formation of starlings (called murmuration) before landing to sleep near the southern Israeli village of Tidhar, in the northern Negev desert, on Thursday. The starlings fly over the skies of Israel during their migration from Russia and eastern Europe. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

A cloud-like formation of starlings (called murmuration) before landing to sleep near the southern Israeli village of Tidhar, in the northern Negev desert, on Thursday. The starlings fly over the skies of Israel during their migration from Russia and eastern Europe. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)