The spring was drying up, but for now it still ran, and it filled the two large rock-cut basins in the side of the hill, and spilled down in glistening streaks to the rocky bed it followed off and away into the distant forest.
The grass grew soft here and fragrant.
I knew that in less than an hour, the women would be coming, some to fill jugs, others, the poorer women, to wash their clothes here as best they could and beat them on the rocks.
But for now the spring was mine.
I stripped off the old robe and flung it down into the creek bed where the water soon filled it up and darkened it to where I couldn't see it. I set the clean robe aside and approached the basin. With my cupped hands I bathed in the cold water, drenching my hair, my face, my chest, letting it run down my back and my legs. Yes, cast away the dreams like the old robe, and bathe them away. The dream woman has no name now and no voice, and what it was, that painful flicker when she laughed or reached out, well, that was gone, fading, like the night itself was fading, and gone too was the dust for this moment, the suffocating dust. There was only cold. There was only water.
I lay down on the far bank, opposite the synagogue. The birds had begun, and as always I'd missed the exact moment. It was a game I played, trying to hear the very first of the birds, the birds that knew the sun was coming when no one else did. I could see the big thick palm trees around the synagogue emerging from the clump of shapeless shadows. Palms could grow in a drought. Palms didn't care if the dust coated every branch. Palms went on as if made for all seasons.
The cold was outside me. I think my beating heart kept me warm. Then the first light seeped up over the distant bluff, and I picked up the fresh robe, and slipped it over my head. So good, this, this luxuriously clean cloth, this freshsmelling cloth.
I lay back down again and my thoughts drifted. I felt the breeze before I heard the trees sigh with it.
Far up the hill was an old olive grove to which I loved to go at times to be alone. I thought of it now. How good it would be to lie in that soft bed of dead leaf and sleep the day away.
But there was no chance of it, not now with the tasks that had to be done, and with the village charged with new worries and new talk over a new Roman Governor come to Judea, who, until he settled in as every other Governor had done, would trouble the land from one end to the other.
The land. When I say the land, I mean Judea and Galilee as well. I mean the Holy Land, the Land of Israel, the Land of God. It was no matter that this man didn't govern us. He governed Judea and the Holy City where the Temple stood, and so he might as well have been our King instead of Herod Antipas. They worked together, these two, Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, and this new man, Pontius Pilate, whom men feared, and beyond Jordan Herod Philip ruled and worked with them as well. And so the land had been carved up for a long, long time, and Antipas and Philip we knew, but Pontius Pilate we didn't know and the reports were already evil.