Darkness hid the mountains as I stepped, for the first time, from the plane onto the tarmac in this new place.
I reached my city well after night had come, six months ago. My first impressions were limited to what could be illuminated by orange streetlights and neon signs; an inky black covered the rest.
Stepping once again onto airport pavement, three weeks ago, I remembered that first hazy darkness. This time dusty outlines of mountains surrounded me and faded into the dusk. I was picking up my sister for a week of life here: laughter and tears with Arab ladies at the community center, exploration of familiar and new places together, smiling acceptance of whatever food or drink was offered… She flowed with it all.
And then I was on another tarmac, mid-day. My flight was shockingly un-delayed by the downpour that had drenched the morning, the rain that had saturated sidewalks and left behind a dull blue-gray sky. My sister was heading home from our connecting city of Paris. I took a different direction; a group of professionals in similar work had been invited to gather on the coast of Spain.
I held little expectation, except to go to the beach during our free time… or during not-free time if needed. I knew none of the other participants. I speak no Spanish (once I knew a little, but it is quite buried beneath Arabic for now).
I was unsure of what I would hear. But I came with a desire to listen.
Within an hour of arriving, I was at a local restaurant with a couple that does community development in London… soon after, meeting a young family that works in Afghanistan, English teachers from Africa, and business-developers who live in India. I started hearing the many stories: smart ideas, failures, restoration, defeat, thefts, provision… Healed, in some cases.
Unhealed, other times. Life. Death. Miracles. Suffering. Enduring.
And during our conference, eyes were feasted on seas, sunsets, and World Cup games. Stomachs filled with good food, mouths with laughter. Faces washed in tears as we heard some of the experiences. Because as we came from around the world, many of us carried stories of broken bodies, broken relationships… companies… countries.
We also carried the knowledge of one who was with us. Every celebration. Every dark day.
Some friends and I had the chance to spend the night, last week, in the desert with the Bedouin. The stars– beyond all counting, beyond any descriptions– drew us flat on our backs in a half-circle, facing up. The darkest night displayed un-earthly glory, and all other nights have felt richer since I got that glimpse.
Two days ago, I was at another airport, this time to drop off dear friends who had been here to visit. They had taught me to cold brew coffee, hugged like they meant it, and reminded me of the most important things. The sun was rising as I drove home, warm bands of orange and pink that stretched over the desert horizon.
A heart filled up. A broadened view.
A new day.