My Friends in Palestinian Laugh

I’m not going to lie to you, the past few weeks since my last post were rough. By that I mean incredibly heavy and depressing.

It does something to you to cross a checkpoint made out of concrete and steel regularly, it does something to you to go on a bus tour and see the ways that the government is systematically crushing bedouin peoples’ culture and livelihood, it does something to you when an orthodox Jewish man looks at you with fear in his eyes because (although dressed exceedingly like a tourist) you are coming from the “wrong” part of town–i.e. Bethlehem–with olive skin. These and a series of other small things add up to a small but heavy load on my back. It’s like carrying a 40 pound weight around. I have slept more, been more worn out by pedestrian things, and been a good deal more snarky on the inside than I’d like.

I suppose that yes, some of this is culture shock. The emotional exhaustion that comes from every tiny thing taking twice as long and requiring getting lost along the way is significant. It is true that I don’t just live in one cultural reality here, but I navigate two. A bus ride from Bethlehem takes me to Jerusalem and the differences between the two are huge. In my head today I realized that it is like going from Latin America to Europe in about 20 minutes. Relatively conservative Arabic culture to a semblance of European Jewish culture, also these people don’t like each other.

I think though that there is more there. How in the hell does anyone deal with all of this terrible nonsense? A history forged out of the blend of suicide-bombers, stolen homes and land, armed occupation, a series of wars, and the holocaust? Good Lord. It is enough to make me cry. And it has. I broke down in my kitchen after the bedouin tour and wept.

In the midst of all of this I remember a moment at a party I was invited to recently. My friends in Palestine (They’re Orthodox Palestinian Christians–about 60% of Bethlehem is Arab Christian) generously had me over for their combined birthday party and showered me with kindness and inclusion. The last hour of the party shifted to story time. I have found that the Palestinian parties I have been to start with food and smoking, then move to singing and sometimes dancing, then jokes/stories. This particular story time was all about the second uprising–the second infitada. The stories ranged from bystanders being shot in the butt and begging to be let into homes in the middle of a firefight, stories about hiding weapons from the IDF, stories about non-combatants being beaten by Israeli soldiers. In short, things from a terrible time. But in the midst of all of these stories, my Palestinian friends laughed. They laughed hard. These were comical stories to them. Stories of heartbreak and danger and violence turned hysterical.

I am just now starting to be able to understand how anyone can do this. How human beings can avoid being crushed under the weight of horror and hurt and loss. I have experienced loss, but at no point have I lived in a war-zone filled with the sort of meaningless death and violence that my friends know. In all of this I was struck by a quote by an author I can’t remember that goes something like this: “In response to tragedy we can either laugh or cry. I choose to laugh because it’s not as messy.” There is absolutely something to this. Of course my friends have cried. They are not robots. They have seen and experienced more than I am likely to ever see/experience. I would not doubt if they cry still occasionally. Grief and mourning are good expressions of being human. But eventually it would seem that there is something to turning the power of our wounds against themselves by turning them into jokes. I don’t know that I would dare wade deeper into these waters than that. Their jokes are not mine to make, but I am welcomed to laugh along with them.

I think today I had a moment where I understood something important about how that happens. One of my favorite theologians has a perspective on humor. His argument is that in light of the resurrection of Jesus, humor is a faithful response to the world. We certainly cry. We are wounded. We are bloodied. But for the Christian, God has given us an undeserved insight about the grain of the universe–it runs towards redemption in Jesus. If all the walls, all the guns, all the hatred, all the hate, all the pain, is overcome in the crucified, resurrected, and exalted Jesus…then perhaps, it is faithful to laugh deeply with tears in our grief-stricken eyes.

Today I looked out my window at the wall that has been built around Bethlehem, separating farmers from their fields, people from their livelihoods, a Palestinian economy from outside investment and I realized I was only looking at the horror. I was only looking at the pain. I was only looking at the fear. I was not looking at Jesus. The Crucified One with holes in his hands, feet, and sides who is more alive than any of us. When I did that, I remembered that the wall in all of its horror and ugliness cannot win. The wounds will be healed. The walls will come down. The guns, teargas canisters, bombs, and molotov cocktails will be beaten into plowshares to husband the ignored olive trees.

This doesn’t make the evil things here any less ugly, but it does move me to laugh. Strangely. Indescribably. Today I began to look at the ugliness with the start of a chuckle in my belly. The weight changed. I noticed it change the way I acted too. I went into Jerusalem (almost 3.5 weeks after getting here) and did touristy things. I went to Gethsemane, the church of the holy sepulcher, meandered the old city market, made a new Arab friend, had falafel for dinner, went up the Catholic Notre Dame center for a view of the city at night and drank a new favorite Palestinian beer in sight of the tension-filled “Holy” city. Then I walked through West Jerusalem and gladly spoke Hebrew with people in passing on my way to the bus home.

I noticed art. I noticed the beauty of candle-light and sung vespers in the church of the holy sepulcher. I noticed people that were kind. I noticed beer and falafel that were delicious. I noticed an unquenchable levity in my chest in spite of all the things that tempt me to hide in my apartment forever and only watch Friends. I’d like to think that what is in my chest is joy. Joy being the taste of what is to come in the reconciliation of all things in Jesus.

I have no idea if that’s what it is. I have no idea if I’m being to flippant with stories of hurt, death, and fear. I think though, that we all have to find ways forward in the dark if we’re not to collapse under the weight of the bare facts of existence. The world is a pretty ugly place. I’m not saying that looking at Jesus means that we ignore it or say, “ah, the end of evil will come, so in the meantime I’ll sit on my ass and wait.” It means that we aren’t crushed under the weight of evil. We can move forward. We can laugh. We can cry. We can work with the Holy Spirit and each other–whether we know it or not–toward what my Jewish friends call “tikkun olam” (the repair of the world). And frankly, until Jesus comes again we shouldn’t stop doing any of these things.

Just a few thoughts for you on the end of your Shabbat/Saturday.

We begin again

I am going to make a come-back on this blog.

It’s been awhile, but I’m tentatively planning on writing several times a week. Nothing fancy like the old days–no more blog post a day–I don’t have as much time and find myself with more to do. However, in the interest of reflection and keeping people relatively up to speed on my life as it is…here we go.

I live in Bethlehem now. I’m not really sure what that brings up for your mind. If anything I assume that you have a series of Christmas hymns playing in your inner monologue now. I’ve moved to the Middle East in pursuit of a MA at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In short, I will be here for something like 2 years. I will learn a bunch of things including more modern Hebrew, more biblical Hebrew, more Greek, archaeology, akkadian–the written language of the Babylonian Empire, and many other things. If I survive the madness, I hope that PhD programs will want to pay me to keep learning.

But I’m not going to bore you (always) with my academic pursuits. For now, I’ll just say that there’s much to be learned. Living in Bethlehem means that learning as much Arabic as possible is a good idea. I’ve found with my very limited vocabulary in Arabic that people respond very well to phrases like “thank you” and “peace be upon you.” I’ve also found that basically everyone has some English. Since, I passed 7 weeks of the summer at a language intensive in Modern Hebrew I am doing quite well when I journey into Jerusalem. I can accomplish basic tasks in Hebrew like getting a gym membership and asking how much stuff costs.

Yet, there is a small problem. I happen to be able to pass for every insider group. When I walk down the road in Bethlehem, people speak to me in Arabic first. When I speak to Israeli Jews in Hebrew, they respond in Hebrew. At first you might think, “wow. That’s neat.” So did I at first. But then I realized that people speak to me like I already know their languages. While it is flattering to pass as an Israeli Jew and as a Palestinian, I can’t communicate nearly as well as folks assume in Arabic or Hebrew. I speak just enough of both to get me into a conversation that I can’t finish.

Now, in the long-term this is not an issue at all. People basically accept me as one of their own wherever I go. I shall thank my Hispanic ancestry that stretches back to Spain for the skin color and facial features that I have. These things are very helpful, and I never needed to try to have them. But at the moment people assume that I understand far more than I do as I fumble through conversations. Mostly understanding in Hebrew and getting lost in the first sentence in Arabic. One of my favorite theologians says, “we are always beginners.” This is certainly my life here.

I have started many things anew in this past season. New homes, new languages, new currency, new relationships, new foods, new spaces to be faithful to God and love other people. I am a beginner, but I am quietly reminded regularly that where I am is enough.

For example, for some inexplicable reason–to me at least–there are many Mexican Catholic Priests here in the Holy Land. I found myself at the church of the nativity the other day speaking to a Father Martin from Mexico in Spanish. I not-so-secretly plan on befriending them and speaking Spanish with them often. In another example my friend and landlady Nasra is a God-send. She has single-handedly made my life function since my arrival. Picked up from the airport shuttle, fed dinner, taken to apartment, taken to get internet and cell phone set up, introduced to shop-keepers, introduced to her friends, given many glasses of juice and coffee, given free and helpful advice. Let no one speak badly of the hospitality of Arabic people. Nasra has been a friend from day 1. Much like every other Arab person whom I have met. PS: there are many many Arabic Christians here. Just FYI.

Now, this isn’t to say that Israeli Jews are bad people either. But the cultures are different. Arab culture is much more like the Hispanic culture that I’m familiar with while Israeli Jewish culture has a more European/WASP in the USA feel to it. Now, both of these cultures were already home to me in different ways from my life experience, but I’m grateful for the order in which I’ve received them here.

There are definite challenges to living here. The atmosphere of dislike is somewhat oppressive. Jews are afraid of Arabs and Arabs are afraid of Jews. There is a wall much like the border between the USA and Mexico that I cross often to get to and from Jerusalem to where I live. It is emotionally taxing. It’s easy enough with an American passport, but dear God is it exhausting.

Also, languages complicate things. Speaking English or Arabic is good in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, speaking English or Hebrew is good in Israel and West Jerusalem. The wrong language is grounds to almost immediately invite suspicion. Not dislike, as a foreigner I have significant wiggle room (Arab folks have graciously spoken to me in Hebrew because they don’t speak English), but suspicion nonetheless. Languages function like identity markers and the language you choose to employ has political implications. The undercurrent of political and ideological zionism VS Palestinians is always present.

I wonder about the similarities in the USA with Spanish/English. There are certain places where people look down upon you for Hispanic heritage or speaking Spanish. It is seen as uncivilized. The language/culture of gardeners, day-laborers, and gangsters. On the other hand speaking English in certain Hispanic circles can be perceived as asserting the need for people to assimilate or to “speak American.” English becomes the language of the oppressor, the language of the privileged, the language of the power structure that says your culture isn’t good enough. The similarities here are self-evident.

Obviously, all languages have value. They all carry parts of humanity that are otherwise inaccessible. They all have strengths. They all have weaknesses. The problem comes when the language of one group is privileged over another. One group starts to assert its own cultural identity at the expense of the diversity of others. Diversity is not treasured. It is feared and it is overtime labeled as not authentically human. This way of being isn’t enough for a Christian or for humanity in general. God treasures the diversity of humanity and we must also.

And so, here in the Middle East amongst my various friends who likely cannot be friends with each other, I begin anew the practice of hating no one. It was easier at home where I do not have to cross a checkpoint to be with my friends. Where the structures of oppression were not regularly (outside the borders between the USA/Canada and the USA/Mexico) a literal wall of concrete and steel that I had to walk through. However, God in Jesus through the Spirit has no enemies who are human beings. So, I’ll keep asking for what it takes to be faithful to this God who has no enemies amongst humanity as I navigate these two worlds separated by a concrete wall.

Even with this wall in mind, I’d like to point something out. I submit that I am not in danger here. Everywhere I go, I am surrounded by helpful people who seek my good. I cannot count the smiles that I receive on a daily basis. The graciousness with which I am received everywhere is immeasurable. People here have known hospitality for strangers since the time of Abraham sprinting to welcome the three angels (or the Trinity?) under the tree. Maybe when you think of me in the Middle East, think of this story about Abraham instead. Think that Chauncey is a guest of 2 peoples who both seek to bless him in their own ways.

If you start there, you will be able to understand more of this place. That’s all for now. Until next time.

Salaam alekum

Shalom lechem

Peace be upon y’all

Paz sea con ustedes

Here again, eh?

Graduating again in several weeks.

Apparently this doesn’t get all that easier with each passing graduation. Preparing to say goodbye to a home (strange thought), dear friends, and wonderful professors is no fun. The only way to prepare for inevitable loss is to be present until you can’t be present anymore. Running away doesn’t work, plus I’d just miss everyone more.

So, this is my plan: to do what I would do and try to be a good friend. Eventually, I’ll have to pack up my room and move. But until then I’ll live here…oh, also papers. I’ll write papers.

Assignment for Preaching Class–Exodus 19:1-6

On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God; the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”
So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. The people all answered as one: “Everything that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

There are some words from scripture that have etched themselves into you; Words that you can’t be rid of even if you wanted to. Words that haunt you. This passage is one of those places for me. These are the words that never let me be. In the midst of my hardest times these words pursue me. I think we’re all there at some point, aren’t we? We’re led out Egypt, but then we hit the desert. We’re not in slavery anymore, but we are certainly not happy about things now in the wilderness. Why in the world would God bring us here, sure things were bad back in Epypt, but not like this. We had things we could depend on! We knew what would happen! And yet, Three months later we arrive here to the mountain of the Lord. God’s mountain is still out here in the desert. Arriving at what seemed like the destination sure doesn’t feel like it…but then God speaks. The Lord speaks. To us, this is surprising. We spent 3 months walking here wondering what it was about, but just like that the silence is broken. “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagles wings and brought you to myself.” In the eyes of God, this journey was as though we were on eagles wings. It didn’t feel like that at all! It hurt! We walked far and left everything we knew…and yet it seems that to God, this was the easiest it could be. The loss, the walking in the wilderness…the whole point of this trip was so that God could bring us to Godself?? I didn’t understand that. Freed, sure, but brought to God? I suppose I’d always assumed that the point was to be made free, but it turns out that freedom has a point. We’re made free for a purpose. “Now therefore if you obey my voice and keep my covenant you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” Oh. God wants us to share life with Godself? I don’t know if I even want this. If there is anything scarier than slavery, this is it. I’m almost willing to run all the way back to Egypt to avoid this. What does the Lord want? The Lord wants to treasure us. The Lord wants us to be a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. We’re supposed to represent God to everyone? I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t ask for this responsibility…but then…all those prayers…what were they? Every time I turned to God, what did I expect to happen? I didn’t expect the Lord to listen to every single one. The ones in the pain, asking for help. The ones when I was enslaved, wanting to be free. The ones when I was wounded, asking to be healed….I think at the most basic level all of these prayers were really asking for one thing: I was always asking for God. It seems that the Lord called my bluff. God knew that when I was hurting I was really screaming for comfort. God knew that when I was enslaved I really desired a life of freedom. God knew in my wounded-ness that I wanted to be whole. And so God did the only thing God could do for us, broken, wounded, enslaved people…God brought us to Godself. And we are terrified. We didn’t sign up for this, but then…we did. We asked, and God delivered. Certainly, the thing we asked for, but we didn’t know that in our demanding help, freedom, and wholeness we were really demanding Godself to be with us. And now the Lord is…with us. Where else is there to go? Do we really have anyone better? Was there another who came to us in our misery and brought us into life? Here we are in the wilderness…at the very mountain of God and the he speaks to us asking us to live our lives with her. God has already committed to us, and now God waits with hands outstretched. Looking deep into God’s eyes for the first time we see past the terror and just there…catch a glimpse of what we truly desire. Yes, the Lord asks for and offers us everything. Yes, the Lord asks us to change…and Yes, we want him. More than want we long for God so deep that our whole being aches with longing for her. This God has always been what we have wanted…even when we didn’t know it. And so, with this quiet realization within us…we and the people of Israel take the leap: “Everything that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

The Update: Farewell to Banchory (for the moment)

I’ve thought about how to catch up on about a month and a half of not blogging. I’m not entirely sure that there is a good way to do it. Still, I’ll do my best.

My last month in Banchory was a whirlwind. I led an entire service in a town called Torphins, I preached at the West Church, I went to a wedding, I climbed a small mountain, I led a weekly bible study on Colossians, went to a Charismatic youth conference, and I was a guest at several dinners.

I loved my time in Banchory. I pouted for an entire day after leaving. I didn’t notice what was happening until I finally got to a place to stay. I was mad that I had to leave. It was a good thing, but I was mad. After all, I do have another year of school left, visas do run out, and I do have other friends who I miss as well…It just doesn’t make it any easier to leave a place full of people that you love.

My last Sunday at the West Church was this past Sunday and as I got up to say goodbye in the service there was a deep groan from the congregation as they heard that it was my last Sunday. There was a deep groan in my chest along with theirs. I have left a piece of my heart with the lovely people in Banchory and there it will stay until I get the chance to return. Several friends mentioned that they now had a quest to find me a Scottish wife so I could have the possibility of living there. I felt flattered.

My friend Mary let me stay in this small cottage that is behind her house for my last week in town. I had my own space and that was nice. Mary is also a wonderful host and we had some great chats. However, I did miss Joel and Amy. They are fantastic roommates. On my last night in town my friends the Scotts took me out to dinner. I have now met all but one of my friend Mike and Margaret’s children. They never cease to amaze me. Their kids are such incredible people. It was a treat to see their youngest child Kyle (who is about 30) give his dad grief about his habits. This is one of the things that I have really come to appreciate about British people, they have a lively banter that they keep going all the time. Everyone seems to be able to laugh at themselves.

This is especially the case at weddings where the best man and father of the bride tend to roast the groom. The best man at my friends Claire and Rich’s wedding said, “Well Rich, you’ve found a kind, caring, beautiful woman to be your wife…and Claire…hmmm…well, you’ve got a really nice dress and some flowers.” The dancing at this wedding was also incredibly fun. Screaming along to a techno remix of “Loch Lomund” to send the bride and groom off at 1am is a great way to tie up the evening. It helps to be at the fun table…and to hit the hot tub at 1:30am.

It turns out that the fun table is not necessarily the table up in front of everyone. When I was leading the service (really, the whole thing. Prayers, kids’ talk, sermon, etc…) in Torphins I sat at this table with a podium on it at the front of the church. I stood up and said prayers and preached and sang periodically. Then I sat down. It was like the whole service hinged on me. A very strange feeling. A guy I met told me once that people in his church got mad at him for asking them to pray during the service. Apparently, that is the job of the minister. Lots of churches still have one person up in front doing everything all the time. The West Church doesn’t and that is a gift.

They even let people like me preach there. My last sermon was on the parable of the ten bridesmaids/virgins. It was a comedy of errors as a attempted to set up a music stand. I broke the stand, the projector wouldn’t work, i messed up the musicians music pages, got my notes out of order. I found it comical. So did the congregation. Yet, it went as I’m told that it goes: when you think you did a terrible sermon…everyone seems to appreciate it. Example #201 of why church isn’t about me.

It’s especially not about me at charismatic youth events. I felt like an old crotchety man in a room full of dancing young people. The youth really enjoyed it and made a point of going for the whole week. I on the other hand was tapped out by the second day. I’m not anti-spiritual-gifts or anything like that. I just think that the words of worship songs can be and often are incredibly repetitive and simplistic. HOWEVER, there was this guy Mike Pilavachi who ran the thing. He was great. He had a very gentle and thoughtful way of helping young people get comfortable with charismatic worship experiences. He’s also very funny.

In one of the sessions led by someone else I lost it for a moment. Someone up front suggested that Jesus was separate from the Father when He was crucified. The rest of the talk was fine, but that point itself basically cuts the knees out from whatever you might want to say afterwards. Point of order: The Bible NEVER says that. I’m going to break it down:

A) We have 4 gospels with Jesus saying 4 different things on the cross.

B) If you take Jesus’ words “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” to mean that the Trinity stopped being the Trinity you have made a huge interpretive error.

Why? Well, first of all you have to read that line in connection with what Jesus says in every other gospel from the cross. We don’t have one gospel narrative, we have 4 for a reason. Second, what you’re doing has made God not God.

A bit more on that. God for Christians is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If Jesus is in any way separate from the Father and Spirit then the Trinity is meaningless. If God can just be Father and Spirit then the Son doesn’t matter. Suddenly, there’s another smaller, 2-part god, hiding behind the Trinity. So what’s Jesus? He appears not to be very important to who God is.

OR

If you’re trying to say that Jesus humanity was separated from God on the cross, then you’ve just said that humanity has been abandoned by God in sin and death. In other words, there is no salvation happening there. Jesus has to be God and human the whole way. Unto death. Complicated? Yes. Confusing? Probably. Necessary? Absolutely.

Anyhow, tangent finished.

My last adventure into the highlands of Scotland was up a thing called a Munro. A Munro is a mountain that is over 3000 feet. There are 282 of them in Scotland. I now have just 281 left. My friend Robin and I rode in on bikes and then scaled the mountain, stopping on the way back down to swim in a river that flows off the Munro. Huge win. The way down was all downhill as well. I get why people go mountain biking now. The bugs can’t get you as easily, you go fast, and the wind in your face is refreshing.

Also, I had a blast leading a bible study on Colossians. Now the information from my course this past semester is etched in my mind. Also, it was fun to get to dig into the messy parts of the text (bits about slaves and women) with the people in the study. Bible time is fun time.

Dear friends in Banchory, I will miss you. Here’s hoping to see you all sooner rather than later. Here are some commemorative photos of myself and some of the legends of Banchory.

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Deep Breaths

I’ve been thinking (as I tend to do) about the Hebrew word for Soul.  נפש or “Nefesh” lately. It also means neck and breath. Basically, what the idea is is that your soul is each breath you take. You breath in the gift of life from God and breath it back out and return it to God. Your soul is you being alive. The thing that animates you. It is a gift that you have to trust God with in and through each breath.

I went to a conference on TF Torrance this week. He’s a Scottish theologian who was brilliant and incredibly faithful. The place where we sat and listened to him talk was at Edinburgh University’s outdoor recreation center at Loch Tay. Here it is.

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What being at the Loch meant was: I got to go sailing. I love sailing. You may not know this about me, because I don’t have a boat and don’t make as much effort as I ought to in order to be on the water. I spent two afternoons bracketed by lectures on one of my favorite theologians out on the water. I chased the wind, righted a capsized boat, and used words like “port” and “coming about.” I was breathing out there. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do sometimes. But when you sail…boyhowdy.

I find that really letting myself breathe means being where I am. It’s a challenge to do. Despite the joys of this time across the ocean there are hurts (both new and old) that need healing. I’m beginning to see new ways that God waits for us. I used to think the Lord waited for me to shape up, to do better, to be more faithful. I am beginning to see that God waits for me to slow down. To not brush over wounds whose healing is important, to not rush through life in unstoppable busyness, to receive life in each moment that is given. God waits for us to sit with ourselves and the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this is what faithfulness means.

It’s not easy to receive each moment as a gift. Yet, even in the hardest moments our breathing in and breathing out point to the gift of life that comes from the God who has redeemed all of creation in Jesus. Our very act of breathing bears witness to the God who has redeemed each moment in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

And so I continue to learn to breathe. In theology lectures, writing sermons, over my many cups of tea, in the hospitality of the people here, and in chasing the wind and spray on the occasional Loch.

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Swarm of Bees

I have been making a point of doing lots of Hebrew lately. It turns out that the purchase of a notebook was all that stood between me and effective studying. Yesterday as I sat at the kitchen table puttering around with my Hebrew bible I swear I saw a scene from a horror film. A cloud of bees was going across the front yard. We’re talking BEES. Not just 1-5 Bees, but a whole flying fortress of be destruction for the fools who would get in the way. I promptly said “Bees!” to myself and shut the windows of the house.

I then stood at the window like a small boy at the zoo and watched the bees buzz around for about 15 minutes. Eventually they settled on a tree branch en masse. There they remained until today, a rugby-ball-sized clump of buzzing tiny animals. I worked up my courage this morning on the way to Friday coffees and snuck into the neighbor’s garden (read garden as yard) and took a picture of a serious portion of the Scottish bee community. Shortly thereafter I walked down the hill and when I came back…the bees were gone. Only one or two remained to document the fact that they’d been there at all. 

I’d like to think that the bees were quite pleased to make a new home for themselves until I took their picture. As though the tree branch they were on was a perfect spot until some noisy representative of the paparazzi decided to take a photo of them when they least expected it. It’s either that or they waited around until I took their photo…as though they wanted the press…I fell right into their fuzzy, pollen-gathering foot-claws.