A week ago Friday night, we bundled up in our pajamas, cranked up the heat and hunkered down for the Israeli version of winter: an off-and-on stream of pounding hard rain. When, around 7pm, just as we were sitting down to dinner, it turned into hail, we stopped to listen. Philippe and Benjamin ran to the front door and opened it to see—and touch—the irregular lumps of ice in order to believe it.
It had been raining off and on for the past few days, preventing me from my weekly walks so when we awakened to dry skies on Saturday I was determined to get outside. At 10am, with Daniella and Benjamin still deep in slumber and Philippe already home from synagogue, I suggested we go for a power walk while we could. Simone, Philippe and I set out with sweatshirts and windbreakers, which we slowly peeled off and wrapped around our waists as the pace picked up, heading for Park Raanana, about one mile from our house.
Park Raanana http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ra’anana pales in comparison to Central Park, but it’s the largest urban park in the Sharon area with a café, art gallery, man-made lake, basketball courts, play structures and petting zoo. At each of the two entrances are security guards who sit on a stool, rain or shine, to check bags. That Saturday, we entered through the top gate and walked straight into the huge playground area, where Simone immediately asked to stop. I circled the playground and headed east while she and Philippe touched and turned and explored everything. By the time I circled back, about 20 minutes later, I was hot and sweaty underneath my long-sleeve shirt. Philippe saw me first.
“Jennifer, Jennifer,” he screamed with his soft French J that always made me melt inside. I followed the path to where they were standing at the edge of the zoo.
“Ah, he’s so cute,” Simone said, eyeing the deer in the over-sized cage. Now that we live in a deer-free country, we can appreciate their beauty. My body heat was starting to drop, and I felt antsy, wanting to keep moving, to stay warm.
“Can we go? You ready, Simone?” I asked gently, wanting to enjoy her being a curious kid yet not wanting to miss my exercise opportunity. Just then, I looked to the right of the deer and saw three small white monkeys. If there is one wild animal I love, it’s monkeys. I approached their cage to get a better look.
“Let’s just go inside to see what else there is,” I suggested, figuring a quick walk in and out and we’d be on our way. The entrance was free, and Simone and Philippe followed me in.
We walked down an enclosed aisle where, on either side of us, there was an odd assortment of caged animals: a parrot, chickens, red fox, mongoose, ostrich, ferret, iguana, squirrels. At the end we turned left and entered a larger enclosed area where there were funny blackish-whitish birds resembling turkeys on one side and goats and more deer on the other. One of the turkey-like birds was out, on the wrong side of the low fence. All his friends were squawking, following him as he walked up and down, pacing. Philippe wanted to pick him up and put him on the right side of the fence, but Simone and I insisted that the zoo keeper, who wasn’t far behind, do it instead. Just as we were going to ask for help, the bird slithered his way between the slats of the low railing, returning safely to his flock.
Amused, we turned to leave when one of the larger birds in the back shook itself and fanned its wings. It was a peacock http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/peacock/ with aqua blue, royal blue, apple green and other hues, a stunning fan that spanned across the bird’s back, reaching the ground on either side. Simone stopped, mesmerized, oohing and aahing, beseeching us to watch too. I stood for a few minutes, entranced by the bird’s beauty as well as by my daughter’s incessant curiosity to stop, look, listen and, if possible, touch. Is she inquisitive because she’s still so young and innocent, or did she inherit Philippe’s science/engineering DNA (as in take things apart to see inside and better understand them)? Her desire to stand still and watch the peacocks forced me to too, something I wouldn’t have done on my own.
Meanwhile, the temperature was dropping both in my body and outside, and the grey clouds were looming overhead. Philippe and I were both aware that we needed to hurry home in order to beat the rain. After exiting through the lower gate of the park, Simone looked up and saw the ominous clouds, asking how far we had to walk. Philippe felt the first drops, then Simone and finally me. We walked as fast as we could, donning our windbreakers in a vain attempt to stay dry, until the rain pelted down on us. By the time we arrived and entered the warmth of our house, we were drenched and smiling, full of wonder.
NOTE: My apologies for no photos but each time I have wanted to return to the park with my camera it’s been raining!