It is Summer’s end. But what a summer it has been - I have traveled – visiting family in England, and the United States, and friends in France. I went on the Chunnel, the train that goes through a tunnel under the English Channel. I felt a tad of anxiety over that but the train went so fast we were in Calais before I knew it. Continuing down through the countryside, the scenery and the sunflowers of Southern France were amazing - bright yellow blankets of sunshiny flowers, faces to the sun in postures of worship. I could see the Pyrenees in the distance and castles perched precariously on cliffs. I wandered about the city of Toulouse, visiting old churches and cathedrals et je suis pratiquez mon français une petite peu. And I went to places that I have only ever read about - the walled medieval city of Carcassonne (see Labyrinth by Katie Mosse). My sincere thanks to Angela, for a lovely restful time, and for taking me out and about to the most interesting of places.
Here in Jerusalem I had friends come to visit me and the adventures continue.
Notes to Self:
1) Never rent a car with a standard drive (gear shift) and then drive to Nazareth, in the dark, up the hills, without your lights on, because you will get caught at a stoplight on the steepest road ever and you will grind your gears and stall and have the cars behind you honk and honk and honk and then the police will pull you over. However, all will be well and the police will guide you to where you are going, eventually, because even they can get lost in the twisting, turning, winding roads of our Lord’s childhood.
2) Remember if you are in the desert watching the sun go down – leave before eight o’clock because there is a gate and it gets locked and then you have to wait, with the beautiful Anastasia and her AKA47, for the guy with the key. However, all will be well, because Anastasia loves practicing her English and has stories to tell about her time in Jerusalem which is much better than her time outside Gaza.
3) If you are standing on the corner in Ramallah waiting for your friends to pick you up - be prepared to be proposed to by a man who invites you home for coffee and a chat about the impending marriage he has in mind. However, all will be well because you explain that you are not ready for marriage at such short notice and your friends will arrive just at that moment.
4) If you are in the Old City deciding where to go, do not follow a nice Jewish man to David’s Tomb so he can show you the view and then on to the Qidron Valley for that view as well because he will propose to you too. However, all will be well, because your good friend Roberta is smart enough to look at her watch and remind you there are places to go and people to meet and we have to leave NOW.
5) If you go to Ramallah during Ramadan remember that the buses stop for an hour at sundown and you will be caught at the bus stop, for nearly four hours, waiting for the buses to start again. However, all will be well, because you will sit with your friend, Roberta, and a nice young German student, and the station attendant, and his friends, and watch the Arabic TV drama shows, and eat corn on the cob, and drink grapefruit juice and just as you get ready to get into a taxi, the bus will come and as you look out the window to say good-bye, everyone will wave farewell.
6) Remember what your friend Steven said: Give your soul a chance to catch up whenever you travel far from home, wherever home may be at the time.
In August I went ‘home’ for a visit. When I arrived in Los Angeles it felt sort of odd to be back in the West. I thought I heard the call to prayer in the Mall, and I translated all dollars into shekels before purchasing anything. But it did not take long to acclimatize. It was wonderful to see my beautiful Catherine, and stay with good friends who opened their hearts and their homes to me. Thank you to Steven, Karleen and Joanne. I spoke at All Saints Church in Pasadena about My Life out of Three Suitcases and it was wonderful to see dear friends who came to support me as I told my stories. Thank you, Randy and Doni, for your organization of the event (and the flyer). I am blessed with the most generous people as my friends. I continue to learn about kindness and care, and I pray that I, in turn, can throw it back out into the Universe for others.
When I arrived ‘home’, back in Jerusalem, it was tough to readjust in some ways. My soul took longer to arrive than I did. It seems to me that there are times when jetlag can reach deep down into the very core of ourselves and it can take time to get all the scattered pieces back from the cosmos and into one piece. However, all will be well, and all is well. It turns out, my soul is very happy here and I am looking forward to this coming year with just as much anticipation as last.
I feel settled. The adventure of newness is waning (although, I am sure, there are still many to come.) I know my way around the city now. I have my favourite Falafel guy on the corner of Nablus Road, across from Damascus Gate (only 7 shekels for the best falafel sandwich, EVER!). I have my favourite shop in the Old City where I take my friends to buy scarves and skirts and Bedouin pants. I know how to take the bus to Ramallah, find the Palestinian stitchery shop, and get myself home. I am prepared for the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter. I am prepared for those moments when I miss my family and friends with a deep ache and yet I am also thankful for the support of the friends I have here in St. George’s Close. We have made for ourselves a caring and loving community.
I attended a panel discussion organized by the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, with our very own Fr. Hosam Naoum, Dean of St. George’s Cathedral speaking on the Jewish-Christian Relations in the Holy Land. And although I continue to be frustrated with the political situation I also continue to look for, and find, the hope that is in the people, of all religious faiths, who live here.
And so with the arrival of September, it is my one year anniversary. Much has happened this past year and not a whit was expected or predicted. I jumped out of my box and landed in a life that is full of surprises and unexpected adventures.
I wouldn’t want it any other way.