It’s year six and I am officially in the Negev now. And only now am I beginning to understand what is happening to me.

I spent the first five years after I left the ministry lingering near the border, afraid to commit to the wilderness, looking back to Egypt and dreaming of halcyon days, fleshpots, and beauty. Yes, beauty. Egypt was so lovely that sometimes my soul would shudder. And the thing is, there are no cathedrals in the wild places. That is the thing you must know about the Negev. You have to let go of all that.

But the Negev has its own rugged beauty, after a fashion. And there is a rich tradition of pilgrims who came here before me. The Children of Israel, the Essenes, Jesus, the desert mothers and fathers. They fled, retreated, were cast out, and withdrew. They sought promised lands, inner worlds, dark voices, and purity.

They were with the wild animals. And the angels ministered to them. Think about what that might mean.

During the five looking back years, my pupils constricted from the lights of Egypt, rendering the darkness of the Negev impenetrable. So I’ve turned to face the darkness. I’ve laid my hand firmly on the plough and beaten its share into a machete. I have set my face like flint. Free from the light my pupils dilate and shadows begin to separate themselves from the deeper darkness behind them. Shapes loom. Wild animals? Maybe angels? At this time I can’t tell the difference.

I am in the Negev. I know that now.

And I intend to plumb its depths.


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