In the Negev

It’s year six and I am officially in the Negev now. And only now am I beginning to understand what is happening to me.

I spent the first five years after I left the ministry lingering near the border, afraid to commit to the wilderness, looking back to Egypt and dreaming of halcyon days, fleshpots, and beauty. Yes, beauty. Egypt was so lovely that sometimes my soul would shudder. And the thing is, there are no cathedrals in the wild places. That is the thing you must know about the Negev. You have to let go of all that.

But the Negev has its own rugged beauty, after a fashion. And there is a rich tradition of pilgrims who came here before me. The Children of Israel, the Essenes, Jesus, the desert mothers and fathers. They fled, retreated, were cast out, and withdrew. They sought promised lands, inner worlds, dark voices, and purity.

They were with the wild animals. And the angels ministered to them. Think about what that might mean.

During the five looking back years, my pupils constricted from the lights of Egypt, rendering the darkness of the Negev impenetrable. So I’ve turned to face the darkness. I’ve laid my hand firmly on the plough and beaten its share into a machete. I have set my face like flint. Free from the light my pupils dilate and shadows begin to separate themselves from the deeper darkness behind them. Shapes loom. Wild animals? Maybe angels? At this time I can’t tell the difference.

I am in the Negev. I know that now.

And I intend to plumb its depths.


  • revsparker <— the final short poem on that page.

    • pastordt

      Rumi for the WIN. Thank you.

  • Bart Imaeus

    It can take a long time to turn the page, can’t it(?) I knew you had left Egypt quite a while ago. But I had no idea where you were headed. I’m glad you told us. …So, after 5 years, you finally know that you are in the Negev. That sounds like no small deal to me. When I look around, I’m never quite sure where I am. I have a New Jersey zip code but that’s about all I know. Wherever I am, I haven’t had much luck plumbing its depths. Or if I have, no one has told me about it. How can you tell? Navigation is pretty much through a glass darkly. Which means it’s hard to know which end is up. Usually I just go out, not knowing where “out” is, and hope my depths will be plumbed by…well, maybe The Great Plumber?

    • Gordon Atkinson

      I can plumb all I like. Doesn’t mean I’ll reach the bottom or ever understand what the plumb line is showing me. But plumbing is engaging, for me.

  • Rachel Barenblat


    May your journey deeper into the Negev bring you blessings beyond measure.

  • Bill Finley

    I am in the process of leaving egypt. I have been on my journey for about three weeks when I left the border. Your journey has been an inspiration to me.

    • Gordon Atkinson

      It took me much longer to turn away. Good for you, Bill!

      • Bill Finley

        Thanks gordon. We might go back to a different village but increasingly the language does not mean anything to me. The song that come to mind is “run to the hills run for your life”.