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Published: December 29th 2017
These past two days have pointed up how unforeseen changes can produce feelings of gratefulness about just how perfect things have been. The first couple of days I had the path completely to myself, a cool breeze to refresh and enliven, and a nice cloud cover to shield me from a merciless sun. Yesterday was slightly challenging in that I was doing the same things as before only now there were new factors that downgraded the experience.
The first thing I noticed on my walk on the third day was that the sun was out in force and man was it strong. Each ray weighing heavily on my shoulders. My sweatshirt was already whipped off before I even reached the lip of the canyon. Then there was a large school group of about 60 hikers that not only did I have to weave my way through, but I had to keep pushing myself onward so that they would not catch up to me as I paused to reflect and recuperate.
So I drove myself like a slave driver to make it to the turnoff where I could find myself in the solitude of the sandy ravine that I had
discovered the day before. Exhausted, but relieved at having left the school group behind, I ambled along the sandy path.
It was impossible to get lost because I was walking in the bottom of what must have been a dried-up river bed or ocean floor current. The boundaries, former river banks, were about 10 feet high. All along the way were strange prehistoric rock formations and vibrant desert colors. There was a massive warped wall that one could tell immediately must once have been part of a dark ocean world. There was one exposed bit of rock that looked exactly like melted grape ice cream. And there were swirling orange canyon walls smoothed by the rushing power of the since deceased river.
Occasionally, I would see a little lizard flitting amongst the sand and dried brush. Being the color of sand, he was not easy to keep track of. What really stood out however, was a single purple flower. Its vibrant color and its will to exist in such a harsh environment was striking.
I may not have had that vibrant of a color, although maybe my head was turning a sun infused red, but I did
have a will to exist. So I decided to look for some shade and rest. Probably not wise to continue much further. I found some protection from the sun under the curving arc of an orangish rock formation and a comfortable place to sit. I broke out my last bottle of water and once again contemplated the quietness and how far I was from civilization or any other living soul
After a good 15 minutes or so of rest I pushed on ahead just a bit further. Finally, I climbed up out of the river bed and beheld the vast emptiness of a flat plain. I could imagine that I might have been the only person in the exact same spot for hundreds of years. No reason to pick that spot to climb up over another. Using a small rock, I wrote the name “Jesus” on another desert rock. I can easily see someone not discovering that for centuries.
It was time to turn around. The walk back was hellish, truly hellish. I had not realized how much the sun being out was going to take out of me. That and the fact that this was my third
day of grueling hiking in a row. Also on my way out of the canyon I kept passing small groups of hikers. I was reduced to a big sweaty, melty mess. My breathing was beyond heavy and my eyes must have been bulging out in desperation. However, one foot in front of the other I made it out and back to the hostel, where I took one of the most well deserved and necessary showers of my entire life.
However, I could not rest. I had to make it to the supermarket before it shut down for Shabbat. Everything in Israel closes just before sundown on Friday and then remains closed until Saturday night. The store was packed and the checkout and line seemed like it went through the roof. So I stood there in that long slow-moving line on weak legs and arms that didn’t even feel like holding my precious groceries. On my way out of the store an orthodox Jew came up to me in a boisterous manner and exclaimed some words in exuberant Hebrew. I being completely shattered from my day’s exertions could do nothing but wordlessly trudge back to the hostel.
completely took it out of me. I could no longer even make the effort to meet and greet the other hostel guests. I have been in a weird mood since then, like I just want to be alone while I let my body recover. Later on when I tried to return to the spot where I had read my book and prayed the previous days, I found it now occupied with Shabbat revelers drinking wine and getting ready for sundown. I found another spot, but it just wasn’t the same.
Last night I did start a new routine. When it got dark enough for the stars to come out I would walk out to the canyon’s rim near Har Gamaal, carefully of course. Wouldn’t want to plunge over the edge now would we. I stared off into the ink black sky filled by such vivid stars. All of a sudden, I got a vision of Christ looking up into the same desert night sky when he was out here for his 40 days and 40 nights. He was searching the stars for something and so was I.
Today I walked the quiet streets of a Saturday in Mitzpe
Ramon. Everything was shut and humble Israeli families were out enjoying the simpleness of a sunny Jewish Sabbath. It was warm and pleasant. I’ve been here in Mitzpe long enough. I am ready for Galilee.
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