Something happened a week ago, a moment that happens as if it were imagined and is remembered as if it’s always happening but fading away. We left the by-pass road that runs between The Scent and The Holy –Jericho and Jerusalem—and rose upon the backs of naked, blushing hills. We stopped at a hillock marked with a cross, climbed and gazed down at the monastery swaddled in the darkening canyon walls below. I wished I had wings to visit that secret place, set-apart not just because of what it is but because of the way it sleeps in the land. I would try to describe it more but…
The moon, huge and orpiment, peaked from behind the mountains across the Jordan Valley. It was perfectly round, though not so perfectly uniform, with light shadows that make it look like an incandescent cookie climbing, floating from the streets of Amman, Jordan. Only a short drive from the barbed-wire of the conflict-leeched West Bank is the East Bank Kingdom: a glittery carpet of little villages, coffee-stands, and Bedouin lanterns that unravels from a distant cleft, a widening stream of lights running into the river. I fathomed from where the moon had just come, a place where I lived in exile. I used to eat chicken at the Iraqi restaurant while the sun sank below the humps of seven Jebels—neighborhoods filled with stairs leading to many secret-doors…I recalled stairs in places further East, too… the moon nudging aside islands in the South China sea…
Who am I, now?
My blog has gone noticeably quieter as I sort through what I call the ‘new impetus’. This new sources of energy and direction is also something happening now, in my imagination, and yet rooted somewhere deep in the past. I watch the moon many times as it rises from the shepherds fields in Beit Sahour, or Wadi Nahr beyond, but there was one first time, when I realized a new period of my internal life had started. It recalled a pivotal moonrise at the beginning of my college phase, when it cast a bleach-white beam across breakers on the West-shore of Lake Michigan. I questioned God’s existence that night, then found an inkling of Her in the sparks of a fire and the hugs of friends: sparse flashes of illumination but a constant warmth. Yet, in Bethlehem it is not God’s nature in question. It is my own.
I always have wanted to be an author. In the intervening years between kindergarten and graduate school, my preliminary education let us say, I managed to become some kind of writer. I think all the time about how I would blog about the uncanny or ironic or essential or warm or etc moments in my own life. What about fiction? Poetry? I talked to the mission shrink psychologist about it and she suggested that I just needed to take the last step. Nothing makes me so hopelessly, so frantically, yet so subtly angry as having someone tell me that I can be an author because I have spent so many days thinking I should be one but so few acting as one. Instead, I have been a reporter-activist. The shrink expert therapist showed a little frustration with me,
“People often thwart themselves when they are closest to their goal!”
“I know! I know! It is because we don’t have a heuristic for succeeding anymore; I lived a narrative of failure and my brain cannot take it—look at my bad examples! Look the self-thwarting itself…“
“Just take the last step…”
“One step? Just one step? What makes you think this is the last step? I picture thousands of steps…”
When I finished shouting at her, I realized she was not ‘shrunken’ about this: it is time. As an understudy to the rising moon, the steaming coffee, the ex-girlfriend who leaves with vague explanations and gives an awkward, last hug—as a reporter, I have the capacity to turn my eyes outward. I can throw my social media habit and my other compulsions on the sun as it leaves for the night. My stages have finally become a cohesive era—an era passed. Where I am has more in common with my future than my past. None of this is happening without my conscious participation but I could not purely will it, either.
Even as I approach eight-hundred words, I am still unable to encapsulate it. My central office frustrated me with domestic placement questionnaire of ten engaging questions, for which they demanded 150 word answers. In a moody-fit, I told them to ask six questions and allow 250. I know, though, that my colleagues do not feel this way: I am speaking from the pit in my stomach.
Almost a month ago – a moonth ago—the Earth passed through a meteor field. At first I did not recognize the shifting constellation, draped next to the moon. I can thank my grandfather’s pilot-vision that I could see it at all. The meteors were colliding with the halo of atmosphere around the moon: sprays of wishes.
And when one pierced the sky above my head, I did make a wish.