Dwelling in the Obstacle

She awoke to a cloudless morning, the sky was the sharpest, clearest blue; more blue than she had ever seen. The sun glowed, glinting off the marbled façade of the mountains. All around her, copper-toned mountains rose majestically against the brilliant blue sky.

She breathed deeply, inhaling the fresh scent of pine trees. A slight breeze blew, rustling the leaves, fluttering her hair. The morning was perfect and that gave her a burst of motivation. She stared up at the peak she intended to climb and inhaled once more. She repositioned the pack on her back, re-knotted the laces on her hiking boots, and took a sip of cool water from her canteen.

Then she was off.

A few hours later a break was forced upon her.

A wall-like rock confronted her, stopping her in her tracks. She sucked in a breath, stunned. It loomed in front of her, menacing, obstructing her path. She reckoned it approximated the height of her three story apartment building back home. She estimated that from right to left the boulder was fifty feet. She couldn’t fathom climbing that.

She walked towards the left side of the boulder and then gaped. Nothing was there. The mountain broke off, dropping thousands of feet into oblivion. If she took another step she would be hurtling through the endless abyss. She stumbled back to her starting point somewhere in the middle, gazing upward in fascinated horror. Its utter immensity frightened her.

She moved to her right only to be impeded by the rocky face of the mountain rising upwards in its eternal journey to the sky, giving her no leeway. She walked back to the center; she stepped back and took in the rock formation. Perfectly rounded like a salad bowl, it was a small hill, tiny in comparison to the mountains surrounding it. Yet it taunted her, sneered at her. It intoned: can you overcome me?

It was just a rock, really. She approached it until she was directly in front of it; put her hands up against it, felt the grainy rock against her palm. She looked up and her heart dropped; she couldn’t even see the top of it. She clenched her fists and returned to the towering mountain on the right, leaned against it, scratched her head. Then she walked across the stretch of ground until she stood once more at the cliff, staring down into the void. It terrified her. She hurried back to her starting point.

The mental image of a cage entered her mind.

She sat down on a small outcropping to catch her breath. The sky, still the most dazzling sapphire blue, contrasted against the mountains which jutted out proudly. The sun, bright and strong, warmed the stones. The rise and fall of hill and valley, the radiant sky, the fiery sun filled the entire spectrum of her sight. The beauty of it was lost on her.

The gentle morning breeze dissipated and the sun glared fiercely. She swallowed a mouthful of water and then frowned; the water was warm and had not refreshed her at all. The sweat dripped from her face; she wiped her sleeve across her forehead but to no avail. The beads of sweat rolled on, unconcerned with her discomfort.

She breathed, trying to recapture the morning calm. Despite her desperate attempts her heart rate began to accelerate

Breathe! Calm down!

She couldn’t. She stood up. This wasn’t a break. This was the end. The monstrous boulder leered at her, cutting off any progress. She paced back and forth along the length of the boulder, from the mountain to the cliff and back again, although careful not to come too close to the precipice.

The image of a cage returned, only this time it seemed to have shrunk in size.

The sun beat down, unrelenting, apparently unaware of her predicament. She paused midstride, crouched down, slung her pack off her back, tied a scarf on her head and reapplied sunscreen, and then continued her pacing.

Now what?

Stop wasting time and deal with the issue! Internal Voice One commanded.

And do what exactly? Internal Voice Two countered. There is no way to scale this boulder, the sides aren’t viable options. What do you want me to do?

No response.

A helpless rage tore through her. She marched over to the mammoth boulder, kicked it angrily and then howled in pain. She sank to the ground, tugged off her boot, and clutched her throbbing toe as darts of agony shot through it. She moaned, rocking back and forth, eyes glittering with tears.

She stood up, hopping on one booted foot. She sagged awkwardly against the boulder, and the full extent of her predicament hit.

The two voices inside of her joined, welled up, and burst out,

“I AM STUCK!”

The sound rebounded off the mountains, reverberating.

“Stuck… stuck… stuck…”

She held her head in her hands.

“Stuck… stuck… stuck…” the echo continued to ricochet off the mountains.

Utter silence followed. Awestruck by the absence of sound, she froze.

And then realization struck.

I am stuck,” she murmured. “I’ve been dwelling in the obstacle. I need to zoom out.”

This gargantuan boulder would not thwart her. Maybe she needed to climb down, maybe she needed to call for help, or maybe she was on the wrong mountain to begin with. Either way, she would overcome the challenge.

She began stepping back and then laughed self-consciously even though no one was around. She bent down, pulled her boot back on, and continued.

She turned back from whence she had come. She stared at the path snaking its way down the mountain. Breathing deeply, she could almost smell the fresh scent of the morning pine trees. She repositioned the pack on her back, re-knotted the laces on her hiking boots, and took a sip of water from her canteen.

Then she was off down the mountainside.

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Pondering at the Window

I gazed out the window, unseeing. What I would have seen if I was looking would be a nondescript Jerusalem street. A tree, leafy green branches waving, a standard apartment building built in the traditional Jerusalem white stone.

I exhaled, leaning my elbows on the windowsill. Either it was me or the world had gone crazy. It had to be one or the other. Why? I don’t know. Was this evidence of my craziness?

An old, grizzled woman was plodding down the street. She was so typical, if I was in the mood for it, I would have laughed out loud. She had feathery gray hair, wore a floral housecoat, and shuffled along in bedroom slippers step by arduous step, her cane beating rhythmically against the pavement.

I felt like everything was wrong. As if someone had fisted my heart, twisted it and wouldn’t let go, squeezing out my energy. I took a deep quivering breath; it did not have the desired effect. The ache in my heart intensified.

A child, somewhere beyond my line of vision, was bouncing a ball. The sound went directly to my head, thudding against my brain. I held my weary head in my hands.

“I really am crazy,” I moaned.

I ambled over to the mirror and studied myself. Wavy brown hair framed a thin face with an olive complexion. Brown, almond shaped eyes, a straight decently sized nose, and full lips. I appeared normal.

Looks can be deceiving, a nasty voice inside my head commented.

I drifted back to the window. Dusk was falling. Everything, the tree, the white stone building across the street, the asphalt road was tinged blue in the fading light.

It was surreal. As if I was the image in the mirror seeing myself stare out the window. The girl at the window stirred, closed the window shades. I was then reunited with myself with a jolt. As if my soul had once more taken up residence.

I sank down at the table, forehead resting on clammy palms. I felt oppressed by an immeasurable heaviness. I felt as old as the woman who had passed by earlier, maybe even older. Maybe I should start wearing flowery housecoats, I thought irrelevantly.

Slowly my eyes began to close and I felt sleep creeping up on me. The pain in my heart gradually receded until  I couldn’t feel it anymore. The throbbing in my head abated as well. I fell into the warm cocoon sleep accorded, grateful for the escape.

Good night, I murmured.

G-d’s Star

I slowly walked along the water’s edge, lost in thought. White waves crashed against the rock, pulled back, and crashed against them once again. The moon glowed, eerily reflected in the black waters. I sat down on the damp sand, absently running my fingers through it, oblivious to the wetness. I closed my eyes and let two tears trickle out.
It was all so beautiful. It was as if G-d had set up this scene just for me, as if he was waiting for me to grasp it in my fist and never let go. I opened my eyes and let it resonate within me. The white foaming waves contrasting against the glistening black waters that stretch unseen, endless, into the horizon. The moon, a yellow-white orb, hanging in the sky, surrounded by glittering stars.
Vast. It was the first word that came to me. Vast and open, for miles, just me and the water. I felt a powerful tug in the region of my heart. Just me, the water, and G-d I ammended. What is this all for? G-d, why did you create this? For me?
I leaned back until I was stretched out flat on the sand, staring up at the milky-way glimmering down at me. So many stars. So many billions of stars it’s impossible to count. Again, I felt a knock at my soul. Like the Jewish people. G-d promised Abraham that his children would be as numerous as the stars and the sand.I sat up with a start, dug my fingers into the sand, and lifted up a handful. So many tiny grains of sand just in the palm of my hand. They can never be counted. Like the Jews. And here I was one tiny Jew, a speck amongt millions of others. But I’m a star. I give forth light, I can illuminate the world even as a grain of sand.  

So it wasn’t just random that I was at a lonesome beach late one night. G-d was giving me a message. No matter where I may be I am G-d’s star and with every action that I do I illuminate the world.