“Everyone comes to Israel for a reason. What’s yours?” Marla asks. Her mannerisms are purposed as she pours me a glass of wine. There is strength in asking questions in this rocky land, of God and ourselves. Israel is a land of sojourners, people scattered and regathered under great doubts and hopes probing all of us. Who am I? Why am I here? I look out beyond the deck railing, past the cows contentedly lowing among stones, dirt, and scrubby plants. My eyes stare out at the hazy blue of the Sea of Galilee. I wonder how one happens upon such an answer, unless it’s given divinely.
Abby and I had ridden horses earlier up the hill sloping below us now. It was her first time on a big glorious beast, and she barely said a word as our young freckled guide led us over the arid, stoney terrain. Buckthorn burrs stuck to our socks and scraggly branches poked our thighs. Abby’s horse Goory (pronounced like “gooey” while flipping the “r”) attempted to forge his own path to the left, while mine pushed forth to be lead of the equine herd, his black mane shining in the harsh setting sun.
I can make any journey into hard labor, whether on a horse or off. Before the trip, I had obsessed over losing a kid in the vast Frankfurt airport. I awoke to blackness under perspiration-damp sheets, my subconscious desiring to know whether we would all be more at peace, more ourselves after the trip. I’ve got to have a reason.
Sometimes though, because you’ve been overthinking and overdoing for so long, you simply want to do something you love and forget the reasons why.
Losing myself in the ride was part of what made it perfect. The Sea of Galilee spanned beyond the hill. The horses wove between happy cows munching their dinner. Birds twittered and landed on the rocks. The clack of hoof against stone jostled a memory loose in my mind.
When I was a few years older than Abby, I had ridden a chestnut brown horse as it clomped through a Colorado stream, peaks towering around me as a girl, and my family, together, and perfectly content in adventure. The sublime moment was a flashback of freedom and comfort granted only with the push of our thighs into the now and our bodies prodding the horses up the sloping hill.
Here our guide granted us liberty to let go. “Push your heels hard and make the clicky noise,” referring to the constant clacking we had to make with our tongues to keep the horses motivated to move at all. We dug the back of our feet into the animals’ sides. They moved quickly, ears perked at the excitement. Dust and sweat kicked up in the air. Our backsides bounced in the saddles. My hand pushed my sliding sunglasses back up my nose again and again.
As we pressed our legs harder into the horses, the easier it was to surrender to the jostle and speed. When we finally stopped, joy unlooked-for spread grins wide across our faces. Abby was quiet, but I knew her silence meant she was beaming inside, internalizing the sensation of riding near-glory.
After a surge of joy, reasons sometimes have a way of working themselves out. They let go of us a bit, shaking out the brilliance behind our questions. I see the golden light on the rocks as the horses mosy up the path toward home. Behind me, purple sky wipes night into my hand, slowly. Later I hold her glass stem in my hand. I swirl her black expanse with the Cabernet.
I feel the dust under my nails, the bouncing sensation still stirring in my chest, the way the corners of my mouth turn up as I answer carefully, as not to shatter the memory of the day, “Maybe I’m here to become O.K. with not knowing.”
Enough of a reason, for now.