SOMETHING OF THE RED SQUIRREL KIND?

Something like a red squirrel?

This is a mama red squirrel. I can tell because she has teats full of milk, so I guess these cute red squirrels are also breeding. They don’t come out as often as the big gray ones, but they do come when they are hungry. She’s a very pretty one!

THE RABBIS BY THE WESTERN WALL

My favorite place in Jerusalem was the Western Wall, sometimes incorrectly called the “Wailing Wall.” In Hebrew, it’s Kotel — it rhymes with motel. I used to go to the Kotel to pray and leave messages for God.

Western-Wall-Placard-1000x666

I loved the approach to the Temple mount. I would stand for a while, looking down at it from the approaching steps, trying to form an image of what it must have looked like when it was the hill where God talked to Isaac, where God said that He would never again ask for another human sacrifice. So what was with all the war and massacre and death? Doesn’t that count?

Then I would walk down the stone steps to the wall and get as close as I could get, so my nose grazed the Wall. I would lay my cheek and the palms of my hands flat against it and feel the humming of power in those ancient stones.

Western wall overview

From close up, you see the messages, tens of thousands of messages rolled tightly into tiny scrolls tucked in the crevices between the rocks. Every kind of prayer, every kind of message, all on tiny folded pieces of paper, cradled by giant stones.

Tucked between the stones were all the prayers, hopes, fears, and gratitude of people who came to this special place to leave a messages for God.

The Wall talks to you and says “You can leave your message here. God always checks his messages and He will get back to you.”

I always brought a message and tucked it into the stones. I knew God would read my message and get back to me. As surely as I knew Jerusalem is the center of the universe and closer to Heaven than any place on earth, I knew I lived down the street from his message center. If every prayer is heard, prayers left at this address got to Him sooner.

western wall with notes

There were groups of rabbis who spent their lives praying at the Wall. For a small fee, they would pray for you. If you believe there is a special potency to the prayers of pious men, the rabbis of the Kotel were worth a donation. They didn’t ask for much – whatever you could afford and for your money, you got a prayer specialist to put the word in for you.

I probably went to the Kotel more than a hundred times over the years, but I most remember one day above all others. I went that day because my mother was dying. I wanted to ask God to give my mother and I some time together.

It seemed pointless to pray for her cancer to be cured. It had spread too far, had invaded too much. I knew it was her time. I accepted death, even my mother’s, but time didn’t seem too much to ask. I bought prayers from the rabbis, then went to the Wall and left my message among the stones.

Almost 40 years have passed, but I bet my message is still there, exactly where I left it. With all the other messages left for God in the Western Wall at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

THE CONSTANT RABBIT: A NOVEL BY JASPER FFORDE

The Constant Rabbit: A Novel

By: Jasper Fforde

Narrated by: Andrew Wincott

England, 2022. There are 1.2 million human-size rabbits living in the UK. They wear clothes and can walk, talk, and drive cars, and do pretty much anything most human beings can do. They are the result of an inexplicable Spontaneous Anthropomorphizing Event 55 years earlier. Nobody knows what the Spontaneous Anthropomorphizing Event was intended to accomplish. No one knows why the rabbits came to populate Great Britain, but as a result, there are people — human, standard people throughout the UK, and then there are rabbits. Human-like in terms of how they live, what they do with their lives. But they are oppressed. Avoided. Never given the “good” jobs.

It’s systemic Rabbit Oppression. And logically, by all the standards of British law, these rabbits should have the same rights as other sentient creatures, they don’t. What is more, there are human foxes who slaughter rabbits … because they are foxes and some weird law say that rabbits are prey and foxes have the right to kill prey. Those are some scary foxes, too.

Jasper Fforde used to write very funny books about books and nursery rhyme people, but in his last two standalone books, he has gotten more serious. He’s still lighthearted, at least some of the time … but the issues of the day have struck home and this one, in particular, is not an amusing romp. It isn’t a dark book, but it isn’t as twinkly as his earlier books. I think the world has changed so much, he can’t write the way he used to.

Suffice to say this is — in its own very unique way — a brilliant book. I can’t tell you a lot about it without giving away more plot than i want to offer. But there is a lot to think about in this novel. It gets stuck in our head, too and doesn’t go away.

Set in the ancient village of Much Wenlock in the middle of Hereford (which is in the middle of the UK), this is a book to read at least twice. It’s beautifully well-written and as an audiobook, also beautifully narrated. There is love, loyalty, fear, bravery, and romance (both human and rabbit-style). There’s bad government, unfair laws, and the distinct feeling that rabbits might really be immigrants. And there is also something strangely Beatrix Potter going on …

I highly recommend it. If you want — need — something to think about but not so dark that it makes you cry buckets of tears, this is the book. I’m not sure what you would call it. It’s sort of science fiction, but it’s not only that. It’s something else.

A FEW MORE PICTURES FROM OUR (BRIEFLY) COLORFUL FALL

It didn’t last long, but at least it was there, however briefly. I didn’t think I took a lot of autumnal pictures, but between August and September, Garry and I too more than 3000 pictures, so I guess we were busier than we thought. I sometimes take a couple of hundred bird pictures in the morning, before coffee! In between the cooking yesterday, I got some great pictures of the last set of orange-billed Cardinals. Each set of fledglings look different than the others. The DNA in these birds is working overtime.

And I still have bunches of River Bend pictures from both me and Garry. So we’ll just celebrate fall a little while longer. It’s still “fallish” outside and the oak leaves are still green.