This week's Torah poem: Voice (Naso)

Seven weeks

Going away for seven weeks requires a lot of work. Between Ethan's surgery (he's recovering well, thanks for asking) and my trip to Texas, I lost a month in there somehow. When I returned to my desk, it became clear how imminent my travels really are. Three weeks from this morning I'll be stepping dazedly off a plane.

New items sprout on my pre-trip to-do list almost as fast as I can cross them off: enroll in emergency medevac insurance (done), research Israeli cell phones (still in-progress), figure out how to get from the Tel Aviv airport to my apartment in Jerusalem after arriving at five in the morning on a Tuesday (any suggestions?)

I make mental lists of things I want to get at the pharmacy before I go. I wake up early and listen to the birdsong pouring forth from our woods -- red-winged blackbirds and the liquid call of thrushes and so many others I don't know how to name -- and wonder what sounds I will hear in my Jerusalem apartment at dawn. Probably cars, and the voice of the five-year-old in the room beside mine.

The practical preparations are taking up so much of my energy that I haven't had much time to engage with the emotional preparations, the intellectual preparations, the spiritual preparations. How I feel about the prospect of being away from home for almost two months, and also how I feel about the specific place where I am going. The things I'm excited to learn. The things that scare me.

It's a strange experience, getting ready for a trip like this. I used to do this kind of thing every summer when I was a kid -- not travel to Jerusalem, naturally, but other adventures. A homestay in rural France the summer I was fifteen. Six weeks in the rainforest the year after that. In hindsight now it seems to me that those trips were training runs for college, ways of stretching my wings and figuring out what it might feel like to go far away from home.

Doing this as an adult is a whole different ball of wax. We'll celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary before I go, reaffirming some of the roots that keep me steady and happy, and then we'll... email often, I guess. Make phone calls over Skype. Ethan posted a few years ago about traveling 150 days a year; he reminded me yesterday that I'm talking about 49 days, which is -- comparatively speaking -- not such a long time. I'm just not accustomed to being the one who goes away.

As we mark the last few days of the Counting of the Omer, the forty-nine days between Pesach and Shavuot, I'm thinking about what a journey 49 days can be. How I hope to emerge from this journey, and from that one, strengthened in my sense of where I fit and who I hope to be.

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