Once there was, once there wasn’t

A fountain. A crocheted white jacket. Fireworks. Evening chill. Midsummer. 

Blessed the hands that knit, the jacket I wore adorned with pink and yellow flowers. The mid summer evenings: a blessing. At six years of age, I can see it clearly. I am running, without care around a circular fountain that sits in the middle of the municipal park. The trees, the leaves, the fountain zoom by but the fountain fights back mine and my sister’s giggles with giggles of its own: little water droplets like rain in July. I wipe back the soft drops off my face with the back of my sleeve and continue to run despite the light cold wind licking my feet. My  mother calls for me to come watch the fireworks and eat my once warm chicken. It is a nice summer night but I still need a jacket. 

A book about stars. A telescope. An obsession with star-formation. 

 The skies over Jerusalem have never been clearer. Summer surprises us every year with its dry long days and its cold nights. I am eleven and I have not yet lost my zest for magic: a world that exists beyond sight. They say Jerusalem is a gateway to heaven. Maybe I am at the right place to mount a telescope in the open sky. I mount my birthday gift on the balcony, which I would have never used on my December birthday: there’s occasionally snow, rain, fog and low visibility. The book of stars lies open in my lap. The evening is chilly. I look to my left where my dad is sitting, in his matching blue jacket. I point to the sky and say: this is the big dipper. 

Pointe shoes. Legging warmers. A basketball jersey. 

In the studio, the girls huddle together. My fifteen year old self still ponders if my thighs stick out too much under my leotard.  The Pointe shoes are all pink satin, the girls turn and turn. It is March. Dance keeps us warm. The heating system cannot compensate for a big room. Winter is colder this year but there is no snow. We still need legwarmers. The girls lean left and right, reminding me of rye in summer. But the past summer came from hell: like a scene from the Bible the flies kept coming into the basketball court. The pesticides sprayed in the wind made me cough. The heat creeping into the night left me up reading more books. But today I am dancing. 

No kites in autumn. No boots in autumn. Ice-cream trucks.  

This city feels the same. I am the one who grew taller. Coming back from work, twenty year old me marvels at the autumn sky. It is void of kites, did the children give up on being outdoors?. It is the end of October and the sun still peaks high in the sky cooking up the leaves and making their descent to earth faster. The rooms of my house all have AC, which we still use on the “cool” setting. My boots are still packed in their boxes. Summer seems to have crashed into Autumn and restarted. The ice-cream truck zooms by. I wonder if this is the beginning of the apocalypse 

The seaside. April showers. An almond tree. 

I am past a quarter of a decade old. This weekend I am on a trip to the coastal city of Haifa. Haifa is known to have beautiful beaches and an incredible view of the sea from the top of its Mount Carmel. When I  arrive to the top of the mountain, all I see is fog. It is April, spring at its best. The palm trees shake uncontrollably. The sea is gradations of grey. The wind picks up cardboard boxes and tiles. It rains without stopping for four hours. The streets flood. I sit in a cafe, reading and sipping cocktails, waiting for the storm to pass. I count how many poppies died in these three hours. I wonder if the almond tree that blossomed in my garden will bear anything this year. 

These are just a few of my climate memories, over the span of 5 year intervals between each memory. It amazes me to see how the climate these days is so drastic. I live in Palestine, a country where the weather used to be described as perfectly Mediterranean: crisp, rainy winter with occasional light snow, followed by a green warm spring, a hot summer with chilly evenings and a fall where mild temperatures and lots of olive trees shed their excess weight. This is how the weather was during my childhood. This is not the case these days: the seasons seem to have blended into two- an excruciatingly cold winter and a hellish unending summer. The moderate seasons of spring and autumn seem to have disappeared. Yet people continue to live the same: picking up night jasmine in summer, huddling over chestnuts in winter, looking out for the last remaining poppies and cyclamen in the three days of spring and cracking open walnut shells with a stone in autumn. You can feel the change in the weather but you cannot feel the change in humans, yet. 

Jerusalem, 23.11.2019


Alice Yousef is a palestinian poet who publishes poetry on her blog “Blooms in Indigo,” ( writes on the Middle East, the Palestinian experience, and the emotions of daily life. She writes in English and her first book of poetry will be published in Spring 2020 by Eyewear Publishing in the UK. I learned to know Alice in Iowa 2016, where we were sharing our lives, sorrows, joys and food and living in the same hotel corridor in rooms next to each other.