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Like Birds Of The Air

I grew up in a small town in Oregon, my house next door to a large forest. I remember spending countless sunny hours out there as a child in the woods and the great empty fields surrounding it. I remember the cool thrill of wading down the creek skipping stones, and the sweet and sour blackberries we would always eat straight from the bush, our faces and hands alike dyed a deep purple. I remember running with wild abandon through the grass, and of climbing any and every tree I could find, addicted to the exhilarating feeling of swaying above the earth among the branches like a bird. Growing up in the lush natural beauty of Oregon has certainly had a profound impact on my life and on my understanding of the divine, but the experience with nature that has stuck with most occurred a long way from home.

My family has always been composed of nomads. For as long as I can remember, my mother has spoken to me of the wonder and adventure found in travel, forever telling me with nostalgia stories of the years she spent in Germany and Austria where she lived briefly as a child and again as a college student. She tells me of dangerous adventures in her travels throughout the former Soviet Bloc, and of endless sunny days wandering the whitewashed streets of Greece. She says she caught the travel bug from my grandparents. They have been traveling forever, so it seems. In my grandma’s house I see endless photo albums, showing my grandparents in all parts of the world: from India to Tunisia, to raising race horses in Germany to learning Hebrew on an Israeli communal living settlement, from Mexico to Russia, and Paris to Turkey, they have been everywhere, and have lived countless adventures. When I was sixteen, my wandering family decided to go on an adventure together. We decided to journey to Israel. And so, in June of 2010, my grandparents, my mother and father, my developmentally disabled uncle, my sisters (aged fourteen and eleven at the time) and myself journeyed together to the Holy Land.

This trip was especially significant for my family because of the fact that only three months previously, my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. My mother had spent the three months before our journey fighting cancer with all her might; undergoing extensive surgery and painful recovery, and was planning to start chemotherapy the week that we returned. We were all sort of looking for answers on this journey to the Holy Land. Answers to why this had happened, how to staunch the incredible fear we felt for our mother, looking for hope.
In our time in Israel, we did much that I will never forget. We visited places I had heard about my whole life, such as Bethlehem, the Sea of Galilee, and Jerusalem, but the place I believe I found the most peace, the place where I found the simplest yet deepest of answers, was at Mt. Sinai. Two days after our arrival in Israel, we trekked to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt to stay at the base of Mt. Sinai. We arose while it was still dark out, at about two in the morning, and made our way to the holy mountain. We hiked for about a mile through the desert in complete darkness, surrounded by strangers who all spoke different tongues yet who were all there for a similar purpose. From there we met our camels. We rode these eight-foot tall creatures, swaying with graceful ease amid the fallen rocks and sand up the side of the mountain. They knew the way without guidance, in darkness, having made this trek thousands of times before. As my swaying companion and I climbed steadily higher, my eyes and my rapidly beating heart became used to the strangely beautiful scene around me. I looked at the side of the mountain, and I saw a caravan of dramatically elongated camel shadows, us precariously balanced on top. I shivered in the cold not-quite-morning air, and then I looked up. Up above me I saw more stars than I had ever seen in my life, or even knew could possibly exist. I could see the swirling Milky Way up above me, and as I marveled at the universe expanding before my eyes, I felt my worries, my fears, my whole being, to be so small in comparison. I knew then what it meant to be truly in awe of something. In this perfectly quiet moment on that Holy Mountain, I felt a supreme sense of peace washing over me. I knew neither why cancer had struck our family, nor did I know how we would ever be the same again, but I knew in that moment that everything was going to be all right. If there were indeed someone out there who could create something so simple, yet so beautiful and magnificent, looking out for my family and I, for all of us, then no problem would ever be too big for us.

We continued climbing for several hours, and once the rocks became too uneven for our swaying companions, we climbed the rest of the mountain on foot. We reached the top at about five-thirty in the morning, just in time to watch the magnificent sun rise over the land. As the sun rose, reality began to set back in, but I wasn’t afraid. Eventually, we returned home. My mother went on to fight chemotherapy like the warrior she is, and she won her battle against cancer. She has been cancer free for nearly two years now, and I write this essay the very day I finished my second race for the cure with her. I know now from this experience, that whatever may come to pass, I will always carry with me that moment of immeasurable peace I found in that sacred place, I know not how, but I do know that everything will be all right in the end.

Those who have ever marveled at nature understand the true meaning of the passage in Matthew 6: 25-26, of “do not worry about your life…. look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, yet your heavenly father feeds them.” My own experience with nature has taught me this. I need not worry about what is to come, for the one who has created and cares for such a wonderful world as this, will surely care for us.
homestarrunner37 homestarrunner37 18-21, F Jan 15, 2013

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