3:00 a.m.: Here in Jerusalem my jet lagging mind – in the process of returning home from New Zealand, (+11 hours from Israel = 2:00 p.m.), on a time installment plan as non-instantly gratifying as the lay-away purchase plans of old – stutters out: “…autumns seem that season of beginning, spring.”
Not sure if these words are an original dream fragment or an inexplicably retrieved literary quote, I scribble them down on the dream pad I keep next to my bed, roll over and successfully re-enter airplane mode, similar to sleep, but not really.
5:00 a.m. Jerusalem, 4 p.m. Christchurch: my mind surreptitiously slips out of the tenuous hold of its mid-afternoon airplane mode nap. I am awake! I listen for the resident Sunbird’s song but he isn’t up yet. Flannel robe belt dragging behind me, I head for the kitchen, where, too sound sensitive to survive the soft buzz of the coffee grinder, instead of a cup of fresh ground coffee, I opt out for a quiet cup of instant.
Warm cuppa ca’fee in hand, I open the shades, pick up my dream pad and journal, settle down at my desk and begin writing. As it turns out, profound jet lag is very good for morning journaling. Automatic writing comes easily and quickly when one’s brain is roaming out of range – 11 time zones away from one’s body.
As I copy: “…autumns seem that season of beginning, spring,” from my dream pad onto the journal page, I flow with the realization that traveling is nothing more or less than a balanced exchange of time and place. This retrieved quote* has come to remind me that in the three months of my travels, I, a sojourner from Jerusalem, have experienced the balanced exchange of six distinct seasons of the year. I left Jerusalem dressed in her golden mid-autumn colors. In Thailand, I met the end of the rainy/monsoon season and the beginning of the cool season. In New Zealand, I was awed by the profound beauty of late spring and dazzled by early summer. On South Island, in the New Year’s Eve night sky above Inverness Farm House at Buscot Station, I received the luxurious gift of seeing my guardian constellation, Orion, in its Southern Hemisphere, (to my Northern Hemisphere eyes upside-down) position. Nine days later, I returned to Israel. Where, upon landing I was greeted by the crisp cold crystal clear light of this year’s raw Middle-Eastern winter. And on my first night home, Orion, quietly occupying his usual place in the night sky just behind and above my condo.
It is said that the best part of the journey is the homecoming.
“Ten measures of beauty descended to the world, nine were taken by Jerusalem and one by the rest of the world.”**
I look beyond my desk, out the window and see the almond tree in the neighbor’s yard. This almond tree, still stunned by the wealth of snow viciously, violently dropped on it by this year’s selfish winter, is bravely engaged in the effort of proving its renewal and bringing forth new buds. Yes, yes, glistening in the dim early morning light, I see the generous dusting of tiny green buds along its bare branches. This seemingly fragile but truly resilient almond tree has proven its worth – it survives to carry on for another year as it brings the message: “Tu’Be’Shvat** and spring are on their way back.”
9:00 a.m., my first-wheels-down-day-back: as I drive crosstown, I feel less the jet-lagged traveler returning home after a long absence and more the time-traveler returning to an unfamiliar, familiar landscape. Jerusalem is scarred and pockmarked in the wake of this winter’s record snowfall. The blizzard which dropped 80 centimeters of snow on the city on 10 December 2013, has left my land with a painful portion of winter’s cruel poverty – trees holding on to completely denuded branches, fallen tree trunks, damaged sidewalks, potholed roads, Jerusalem Stone bare of its usual clinging green foliage – I long for the riches of spring to be upon my land. I drive past the cemetery’s gate.
Upon arrival in Jerusalem, most people’s first duty is to go up to the Western Wall. My first duty is different, for I have adopted my beloved father-in-law’s homecoming habit. I go up the hill of Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul Cemetery. Accompanied only by the sweet smell of the cemetery’s winter broken wet pine trees, I lay stones from Thailand and New Zealand on David’s, (my late husband’s), grave. I think the joyous “Honey, I’m home!” I emit the subdued whisper: “My love, I am here.”
…and then, I remember the almond tree, “…autumns seem that season of beginning, spring.”
* “…autumns seem that season of beginning, spring.” – Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories
**The Talmud at Kiddushin 49b
***On the Hebrew calendar this is the holiday marking the New Year of the Trees. On my personal calendar, this year it marks what would have been the 26th anniversary of my marriage to my late husband, David.