Creator of the craggy cliffs
Dotted with plump trees,
Creator of the rippled floor
Of the restless sea,
Creator of the overhead:
Sky, gauzy clouds, & gulls on wind
Wants to marry me.
For He is mine & I am His.
“My beloved is mine, and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:16a)
In my blog post last week, I told you that I wanted to see beauty in the daily grind of life. I wanted to intentionally notice.
I managed to get a photo from each day and multiple photos from several days. My self-induced challenge made me look for beauty, even when I wasn’t snapping pictures. I liked that.
There were a lot of photos I would have liked to have had and one I accidentally deleted… but instead of telling you about those, I’ll show you these:
(Most of the photos below were taken on my phone, so I won’t vouch for their quality.)
A proud tree stood with arms stretched wide Until they reached the other side Of a wall that ran both deep and wide. The tree offered fruit and shade Of the same quality that it saved But on its side it proudly stayed. And this side--both yours and mine-- Toiled but controlled the time, And the other side could never climb. Then one day that tree fell down, And passing people quickly found Not one but two ruts in the ground.
Spending Christmas and New Years in disputed territory sounds exotic. And it was. Not in a dangerous sort of way, but in a different sort of way.
Flying in from the north gave us a view of breathtaking scenery. First there was green, then snow-capped mountains, and last of all desert: vast stretches of orange that melted into the sky without a horizon. Later, we discovered the reason for that: wind.
Who could turn down a cup of tea in the middle of the desert? But even in the driest parts of the desert, there was life… signs that deserts will bloom. We also visited an oasis. It was a beautiful and forsaken piece of green property on the way to nowhere.
We stayed in a small town where few foreigners roam, everything is everyone’s business, and camel meat is cheaper than beef. We stopped at lots of checkpoints, visited a nearby fishing village, ate ourselves sick of fresh fish, stuck our toes in the chilly ocean, watched fishermen bring in the day’s catch, rolled down a sand dune (getting sand in our eyes, ears, noses and carrying it home in our pockets), met a few camels and tasted them too.
But best of all, we got to meet people with years and years of rich nomadic history.
Autumn is my favorite season. This year I had one day of what I would consider true autumn: the sweet smell of damp and fallen leaves, apples, pumpkin bread, brisk air. It was lovely. I had to enjoy the entire season in only one day in that mountain town. But I think I succeeded.
Despite the Midwest feeling of that fall day, now and then there was a reminder that I wasn’t in central Illinois:
We had seen each other before. Most mornings I passed her by on my way to school. She and a friend would sit on a concrete bench under a tree. Noting the consistency of our timing and location, I greeted the women regularly. But I never slowed enough to make conversation.
Until the day I needed help with my homework. Both ladies were startled when I plopped down beside them and asked them to help me. With no context for this encounter, they were full of questions: Was I a student? Where was I studying? What kind of Arabic was I studying? What was my name?
The conversation was labored, but I finished the assignment and arrived at class, breathless and only a few minutes late.
A few days later, I was striding to school with my normal stoic street face when a lady in my peripheral became animated and shouted to get my attention.
Another beggar, I surmised, and turned to greet her without reaching for my change purse. But then I recognized her face, although she wasn’t in her usual place under the tree.
As we greeted each other in somewhat reserved familiarity, I studied her for the first time. She wore old clothes and the kind of shoes that most women only wore to the public bath house. Her face was enveloped in the odor of her breath, which I smelled as I embraced her. She was a tiny woman, not built for the hard work that life required of her.
Who was this woman? And what did she want from me? She insisted on walking with me on my way to school; she said she worked as a maid at a house nearby.
Her speech was complimented with gestures. “You—come—my house—to sleep.” She isolated her words with the intention of helping me understand. “Do you understand?”
I did understand, but said only, “God willing” which was neither a commitment nor a refusal.
Before we parted ways, she asked for my phone number. That evening she called me and together we weathered my first phone call in Arabic. We exchanged greetings and a few other bits of information among the numerous confessions of “I’m sorry; I don’t understand.”
She told me she would wait for me the next day on my way to school.