Monday, March 31, 2014

Lent pilgrimage--feeling my way into a dance of women

"When Pharaoh's horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron's sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them:

"'Sing to the Lord, 
for He is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
He has hurled into the sea.'" (Exodus 15:19-21)

Confusion. Terror. So weary. Hurled from joy to despair and back again. For how long now? Blood, frogs, flies, hail that destroys them but not us. We can go; we can't go. Bricks and then more bricks. Kill a lamb and do WHAT with it? My mistress fears me; the master sits broken while she wails over the boy's body. Gold, rich fabric, treasure stuffed into a sack and thrust at me. "Go! Get away from us! You! You death!"

Hurried we gather. They gave us carts and oxen, too. I carry the dough myself.

Clouds and shekinah fire. Backs to the sea. Sounds of chariot, armor and marching men thunder as they advance toward us. Dust fills the air. Hard to breathe. Sweat. Stench. They come. We wait in helpless terror.

So many of us. Some stand quiet, numb. Others mill and pace. Men talk in little groups like they can figure this out. Maybe I'll just lay down and let them come. Children cry. Some are attended; others ignored. For how long? How long until death comes to us all?

The crowd surges. Toward the sea? What? Pushed and trapped in the tide of bodies. Flattened reeds catch at my sandals. What is this? Pressed forward, but where is the sea? Shekinah fire all around. Can't look--keep eyes to the ground!

And then we move up the bank, back onto the plain. Rocky ground and stumbling. How is this? Where are we? Behind me death rages. And then silence. Such silence. Before me Moses' voice rises to sing a story. Is this OUR story? Is this what happened?

We stand dazed. Some fall to the ground. So quiet in the dawn with that lone voice rising. Then Miriam picks up a tambourine. Begins to sway, to hum. Slow steps turn to solemn dance. Her voice rises, giving words to the silence behind us. Another woman joins her, then five, then eight more. I put down my load. Dig in the sack for that timbrel. Joining thousands who now sway and move in a woman-dance of weary, death-tinged joy.

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