Been Away II

Lifted gently and efficiently by Lufthansa’s local jets from Birmingham to Linz via Frankfurt. “Ja zu Fra”: the busy hub where I just have enough time to make the twisting up and down journey between gates; hoping my luggage made it too (it actually didn’t last time and caught up with me later).

To a place where the sky and heaven are called the same thing, so that every time I think or talk about the sky I am also reminded of Heaven. It’s not a bad thing, when I think about it. Maybe we have too many words in English. Or not enough.

This is a return trip for me. I have seen this region in different seasons – and every one suits it. The dark skies (Heavens), clearly visible constellations and amounts of snow in one overnight fall that would (and does) bring my country to a chaotic standstill are routine here and decorate the rolling countryside magnificently.

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Been Away.

Been away. Off the radar. Somewhere else. Somewhere different. With a capital Dee. I have so many impressions, drownin’ in ‘em. So many thoughts, tumblin’ in my cold-moon sky filled head. Like grains of Blake sand blown down a dune. Enough to create a dune. Maybe a series of dunes. A desert?

A desert that’s anything but a desert. But where, my friend, where, oh where to begin?

“Simple,” I hear you whisper on sand-scented winds, “begin at the beginning.” And, so sweet of you; for I know you would be trying, as ever, to help; but when the beginning is written in the opening of Holy Books?

The lake that’s a sea and so much, much more than that. Where I floated confidently in hot waters. Saturated. Literally.

A place that is, now, nothing like it was. That comforted humankind on its way out of African cradles: offering fertile lands, good plentiful water. Space for living. For evolution of civilisation. For trade. For thinking. For faiths to be born, tasted and tested.

And everywhere and everything seems to be only two handshakes, two salaams from the Old testament, the genealogy of the Bible, echoing down from 1960s Sunday school and R.E. lessons, is reality: homeland, homecoming and promises of futures.

Skies that, in the high-sun heat of day, remember the Flood, but can so rarely hold a raincloud hold a cloud – and in the night pour the balm of cool from clear-star heavens over seas of sand in which rock formations wallow like slumbering leviathans.

To a country where people are genuinely helpful, far, far beyond pale plastic pseudo-polite imitations; where, if you tap your head to a waiter in a coffee bar he will be there with Paracetomol and water, before you realise what you were signalling.

A country born from a revolution that changed the world (again); named after (or for) and bordered by a river (the one we have to cross apparently). A country that has little or nothing in the way of resources, but one that showed a different face every day – and each of them brimming with hospitality and generous friendships.

A country extremely poor in water, but one whose role and example has stabilised the region, thanks to diplomacy, patience and inspirational leadership.

A history carved in rock and the winds: revelations on every hand.

Jordan!