|Morning view of the Jerusalem Hills|
On Saturday I went for a walk with my aunt in a little suburb of Jerusalem called Ein Kerem. We visited churches and monasteries, walked through beautiful gardens and weathered stone buildings, looked at mosaics and wall paintings, and enjoyed a fabulous, fabulous view of the Jerusalem mountains stretching almost as far as the eye can see.
We stopped by one Russian Orthodox monastery which sits high atop the mountain. The view from up there took my breath away. Around the golden-domed church, many houses nestled, embraced by oak, pine, fig and olive trees and early cyclamen bending their pink heads to the ground. Stone staircases wound up and down the steep hill. My aunt and I longed to peek inside the houses, to see how the nuns live. We saw one nun, in a house dress, sweeping the stairs below her house. Near another house a long white shirt hung on a line, the wind floating it back and forth like a ghostly swing. Peace reigned, and quiet.
|Gate near Stairs of Eden, Ein Kerem|
Living in such surrounding must be uplifting, blissful, I thought, and yet how do the nuns deal with depriving themselves of the comfort of love? They choose to live without a family, without a partner, an intimate witness to their hopes and dreams, their mistakes and successes, and without children to brighten (and sometimes make crazy) their days. How do they do it without loneliness taking hold and shriveling them inside?
Since arriving in Israel, I’ve been thinking a lot about love. After all, coming here meant that I left people I love, the kids, Dar and my parents, far away — half way around the world — in order to see other people I love, my aunt, grandma, cousins and friends. Despite being surrounded here by love, I miss Eden’s soft cheek as she presses it against mine, Uri’s giggles when I try to steal a kiss from him, and the feeling of safety and warmth in Dar’s hugs. I am here, but my heart, divided, is also there.
Sometimes I wonder if perhaps I am too dependent on the kids and Dar. Do I worry about them too much? Has my happiness become too entwined in their presence? Am I too attached? I feel as though I could be more independent, give myself and them our freedom to be.
“Letting go of attachment does not preclude love,” my aunt, who is also a Yogi and Sanskrit scholar, told me. Like the Buddhist monks who, by letting go of the boundaries between people, love the whole world. The idea of attachment is that, in the end, we cannot take anything or anyone with us.
|Stairs of Eden, Ein Kerem|
I am unlikely to be a Buddhist monk in this lifetime. While I know I can’t take hugs with me to the grave, I do know that I would not like to live without them. I guess when I’m not feeling contrary, I know that hugs are not attachment, unless perhaps I refuse to let go. I could argue that holding on to the memory of the hug is attachment. But philosophizing about that, perhaps, should be left for another post. For now, I remember the lofty feeling of openness in the Jerusalem pine-infused air, and though it is hard, I call my heart here. In a few days I fly back, and I will see the kids and Dar and feel their hugs and taste their kisses. But today, I am here.