Wilderness – 4

Looking across the Dead Sea towards Jordan

‘He must have recited a hundred prayers that morning, before the sun obliged and warmed him through. His prayers brought up the sun. His prayers suppressed his appetite. His prayers picked out the sunlight on the dead and silver sea and hardened it. It turned it into jewellery. The water was as solid as a silver plate. It rose from the distant valley into the mid-air haze. Jesus had to look at it through half-closed eyes, it was so bright. The more he looked, the more transformed he felt. He could have taken this to be the natural way of water and light. But Jesus had not come this far to witness only godless routines of the sun and sky and sea. He had to take each shift of light, each colouring, each shadow of a bird to be the evidence of god. He had to persuade himself, before the forty days were up, that he’d been awarded a brief view of god’s kingdom. Let the silver plate be paradise. Let god be calling out to give to him his new commandments, as he had given all his laws to Jews in this same wilderness.’

Jim Crace, ‘Quarantine’, 1997.

The image shows Jordanian hills viewed from cliffs by the Dead Sea.


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