Don’t ask what I am doing sitting on the ground deep in the heart of the Christian Quarter at sunset, dressed in grey, my shoulders bare. and my eyes shimmering.
The old nun doesn’t ask. She just tells me “the ground is no place for a woman to sit.”
I say “I’m just tired.”
And I guess that’s the short version, even though she didn’t ask. I AM tired.
I chose this country 18 seasons ago, right before a dust storm roiled across the land, right before the rains came. And we shared these dark times together, this land and I — a winter that would not quit, sicknesses that rocked my family until we broke, then homelessness; I was a mother without her children for half a year until I found my footing and could walk again.
But I am tired, and a little lost, even when I know these paths, and know these stones by route, if not by heart, even when I can walk with my eyes closed from my doorstep through the fields — with a quick step to the left around the giant cistern built centuries ago — all the way to Highway 40.
It’s the newness — even on this ancient land, it’s new to me.
I hear it never goes away, the newness, the sense of wonder, of miracles, each moment its own tiny universe.
Because even when there’s a “routine,” to follow, even when you know you need to be at the bus by 7:09 am, to take the kids to school, and then wait by the south gate for a ride to Ramla to catch the bus to Jerusalem at 9:40. Coffee for 5 shekels if you arrive by 9:30, if not, then too bad, you’ll get it at the Central Bus Station, like always. For each time, the world opens up a little more, as you get to know it – texture, depth, nuance, like finding a hidden staircase in a crumbling building that takes you to a room with clear windows overlooking the crown of an ancient city.
I remember how that really happened once for real and by accident:
I found this stairwell up, up, up to a roof high above Jerusalem on a day too hot to bear, when tempers flared, during the war last summer when everyone else was tired, too. And there, high enough in the clear blue nowhere, the city was laid out below me like a mosaic of metal and stone… the only sound the wind around me, a roar, and then a whisper, then the beating of my heart.
I knew I didn’t know what to expect, but I never expected THAT.
Every day, another miracle, and then, that sense of wonder, and another universe unfastens.
But now… I’m tired. I want home, it’s warm, strong arms around me. I want to close my eyes for once, and not worry about missing something, because my heart will finally be quiet, no longer searching; It’s made its choice, and its been chosen, too.
So that’s why I am sitting, against hard stone in the Christian Quarter deep in sunset.
“I’m just tired,” I say again.
“So come with me to the convent,” she says. “You can rest there.”
And because my heart is way too loud against the stone, because it hurts, because it’s searching, and because this IS a place of miracles, it’s the obvious choice to stand up, dust myself off, and follow her.
Inside, we sit, the nuns and I.
One nun asks me if I have lost my way.
Another asks if I have a place to sleep.
A third asks why my eyes are shining.
“I’m just tired,” I say, and I look down at my feet covered in the dust from each step I’ve taken until this moment: “And I still have a ways to go before I get home.”