So, here we are! My special spot! It's not much to look at is it? A wasteland actually. Hot. Dusty. Barren. But to me it's the most beautiful place on earth.
I used to come up here often, alone. I'd stand for hours, just to gaze and gaze... Sorry? At what? Good question! At nothing Ė miles and miles of nothing. OK, granted there are the canyons slicing through the land, carving it up like strips of meat being cured in the sun. And the dark cave mouths; yawning holes in the rocky steppes. But now, see over there? No farther still. All you see is a white plain gleaming so fiercely it hurts the eyes.
That's what always held my gaze. I'd stare until tears blurred my vision. I'd imagine God, sitting in the middle of that milk-white nothingness, just beyond the horizon. I'd imagine that if I called loudly enough, one day he'd hear me. Or he'd come this side and see the little patch where the dust had been laid. He'd know they were my tears watering the wasteland. And he'd have mercy.
I was the wasteland. Empty as this wilderness. Oh, please! Don't start on about the flocks and herds! So what if my husband was the richest man around? Do sheep put a smile on your face when they're learning to talk? Do cattle call you 'Mama'? Barrenness. Barren land, barren woman. An endless, aching void. That was my life.
Every day I prayed, pleaded, bargained, begged. Sometimes I thought God had answered my anguished cries. But always I was disappointed. I never felt so empty as on those 'disappointment days'. It was like I'd been stripped on the inside. Yes, exactly! Like when we take everything out of the tents to beat out the sand. I was a tent, stripped bare, beaten, left empty.
You know, of course, my husband has this habit of 'hearing from God'? I mean, that's how we got here in the first place! Well, God told him he'd give him a son. We waited Ė for years. Eventually I lost patience with the Almighty. It was the most shameful moment of my life. I reasoned he had promised my husband a son, but hadn't specified who the mother would be. My faith was all used up, dry as these dusty ditches. I gave my servant girl into my husband's arms.
Within a month she was with child. I watched her belly swell. Of course my poor body seemed more shrivelled than ever, like the dates that we use in the cakes for feast days. Her son grew big and strong. I wore a fake smile. Hadn't God fulfilled his promise? But I was a walking corpse, waiting for the grave. In those days I came up here a lot. I'd done with praying. I just wept over unfulfilled dreams and unanswered prayers.
Then, one day three men came to our tent. They told my husband that within a year I would bear him a child! Yes dear, I laughed too! Me? Become a mother at ninety? I honestly thought they'd caught too much sun.
But then the strangest thing happened. That afternoon it rained. Yes, really! Bang in the middle of summer when it never rains! All the little gullies filled with dirty brown water, swirling, tumbling, eddying. Everyone was laughing then. The shepherds' children splashed and played till sun-down in the cool streams.
I came up here two days later. The streams had already dried up. But this whole landscape was alive. Bright green shoots pushing up to the sky. Tiny flowers nodding at the sun. The rocky slopes clothed in all the colours of the rainbow.
I fairly ran back to the tents. Yes, an old white-cap like me! I'm sure it was a pretty sight! I was quite out of breath when I arrived. But hey, if I was to have a child, I had to wash the dust off my feet and change my clothes before my husband got home.
Then it happened; little by little my middle started to round out, like the moon waxing in the heavens. Goodness! By now you could imagine I was carrying the full moon! My breasts were wizened old prunes. Why, they're big as pomegranates now, heavy with milk! My withered body has filled up with life.
Our faithful God kept his promise. The desert blossomed; and this barren woman will soon hold her son in her arms.
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