Returning to Jerusalem for me feels very much akin to re-entering the Universe after being gone for a while, much like an astronaut must feel at the end of his mission into space.
Time somehow feels warped, stretched and suspended all at once.
The smell of air that mixes with the sand and the sea fills me in an instant with the visceral memory of Memory itself. I am at once completed by the notion that I have many of my own memories here now, which blend into the colorful patchwork of human existence. The dust from my travels will soon mix with the dust of the desert. Together, all of us, we are one.
Twenty four hours after my arrival, the silence of Shabbat is coming to a close just as the haze of jetlag is starting to lift. As I travel into the city center to meet a friend for dinner, I am overcome with the sensation that I have returned to reunite my present self with the essence of the woman I left here a year and a half ago. Perhaps not ironically, the Number 18 bus carries me through the part of town where the rabbi and I spent the bulk of our time in Jerusalem together. As I catch the reflection of myself in the bus window, the sensation passes through me that time and space have once again become so superfluous to memory. Has a part of me lived here the whole time I have been away? Do we, as human beings, have the capacity to leave flecks of our heart dust in the places we have been? How lucky I must be, as this human being, to be able to return once again to the pilgrim trails in my heart that always lead me home.
I continue to peer out of my window onto the street life that emerges with the stars above, seeing flashes of myself from the past, from what feels like a lifetime ago. I blink and see in snapshots the lingering summer evenings that the rabbi and I spent our time along the same bustling street where my bus now takes me. Like a movie reel, I see myself in the slice in time when I realized that could "see" myself with him at a level much deeper than either of us were willing to comprehend. Seeing and knowing it all now, I bite my lower lip to blink back tears as I feel my heart delicately navigate around the tough scar tissue that has successfully built itself around the abysmally deep lascerations that came only later. The heart dust that I left here did not yet know these pains, I think to myself. Now many months later, the evidence of my wounds are there, but they are not weepy, and, for the most part, neither am I.
I remind myself that in the silent places of my heart, I have taken the time to prepare for these initial moments of returning to Jerusalem, for the moments in the beginning when I would only see the breadcrumbs back to my past. I knew that these were the moments I dreaded, which is one of the reasons why it took me so long to return. Fortunately I found that the dread of these early moments of re-entry was far worse than the moments themselves. If anything, they came as a reminder that I have survived well enough to come back. Clearly, I completed the mission of picking up the pieces of myself back in the United States, and so now, I am here to give this and the rest of my story the love and the energy that it deserves.
(Sometimes I wonder if I could be a little less intrepid. For what it's worth, I plan to keep my heart dust and bread crumbs to myself for a while. But for now, this will have to do.)