Wandering in the desert

These past few days, I’ve had a lot of time to let my mind wander. We spent the weekend in the southern part of Israel on another trip sponsored by the International School, like the one to Jerusalem a couple weeks ago. On Friday, we hiked Makhtesh Ramon (in English, Ramon Crater), the world’s largest erosion crater (called makhtesh), located in the Negev Desert along the Israel National Trail. After that 6 hour hike, we rolled down sand dunes nearby (after a bit of convincing myself), and then drove the rest of the way to Eilat for the night. The next morning, we hiked through/up/on Eilat Mountains and spent the rest of day at the beach. On Sunday we finally had some time to relax, and other than figuring out how to work the laundry machines here, it was fairly uneventful, minus the short trip to urgent care for some stitches in my middle finger after slicing it while making dinner. Oops. Anyways…

When I’m walking in the middle of the desert or mountains, I’ve found that it’s really easy to think. I wonder if that’s how all these stories came out of years wandering in the middle of the desert. I realized, when we were walking on the top of the mountains, that from where I stood, I could see the places where the stories have been written about. I could see the Red Sea in one direction and the desert in another. Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt were all in view. It was really easy to think- but at some point, I stopped talking. I don’t think I would’ve known what to say. Thankfully there was a trail of others to follow, because my feet were just moving and my thoughts rambling along. Even now it’s really tough to articulate how I felt in those hours. Other than being really sweaty and hot and thinking I wasn’t going to make it up some of the steep climbs…

But I know I felt really small. Maybe that’s why I loved it so much; it’s like when I look up at the sky and I just feel awed and humbled and moved. It puts things in perspective. It puts me in perspective, and that’s really refreshing. One of my favorite quotes:

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” (-Edward Everett Hale or Helen Keller, who said it later, as sources say)

I’m also reminded of a quote from Pirkei Avot, a compilation of ethical teachings of Rabbis from around 200 C.E.:

“It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.”

Welcome to a window into my mind…but back to the mountains.

The best thing about climbing is that you know there’s going to be a view that takes your breath away when you get to the top. I could see for miles…it was awesome. (Luckily, I overcame my fear of heights a few years ago walking on the edge of some cliffs in Seattle- thanks for making me do that, Mom and Dad). When you stand on the tops of mountains, it feels like you can see forever. I could see paths that trailed into the distance, red rocks, sand, and water. But what about the things I couldn’t see? When you have the big picture, it’s easy to forget about the little things. But it’s important to maintain a balance between all those pieces- that our perspectives don’t always let us see everything, even if we think we can. That we may have climbed up a mountain someone else hasn’t, or that they have climbed their own of which we don’t know.  It’s easy to get caught up in our own views, experiences, and backgrounds- it’s a good thing- but it is not everything. I’ve been thinking a lot about my thoughts, and from where I come. Wherever I go, this place makes it really easy to think, take a step back, and question.

For now, I leave you with this…

“All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”

Happy thinking.