When the pomegranates bloom, I think of my grandmother.
“Did the pomegranates blossom yet,” she used to ask me in those long afternoons on her veranda. “Are there fruits on the trees? What did you see today? what did you feel?”
Some people swim the lengths of oceans without ever leaving their neighborhood’s swimming pool. My grandmother walked the lengths of cities, rarely leaving her second floor flat.
I saw her marching on her veranda, walking back and forth and back again, almost every day. Her steps were measured, and her hair shone white under the sun. “It’s good for me,” she said, and kept walking. She walked like a swimmer, many laps at a time.
And then she would stop, and sit down by my side, and I would show her the world through my eyes.
Twenty years earlier her energy might have taken her all the way to the walls of the Old City, where ancient stones glow yellow in the twilight. It might have carried her to the bizarre little houses that bind together old bricks and tin extensions and new white walls and eras and memories, and loom over Nachlaot’s quiet alleys, oddly organic with their artistic blue gates. It might have carried her to the explosive colors of the Mahane Yehudah Market. It might have even led her to the hills and the desert, that stretch, so austere, past Pisgat Ze’ev.
But my grandmother was in her nineties, smaller, more fragile. So I brought all those places to her veranda instead.
Whole worlds spread before us, there on the veranda. Worlds upon words that our words brought to life.
Sometimes, I think that I never really left that veranda. I may have walked through my city, but I never strayed far. Jerusalem brims with people and tales and pasts and grand futures, and like my grandmother’s veranda, it is only small in the flesh. Look deeper, dig further, ask the right question, and – voilà! Whole worlds will unfold. But, rich though it is in its depths and its spirit, this city spans several hours by foot at its best.
The rhythms I learned and the tempos I dance to – they’re all forged right here, in this one little place.
Some people swim the lengths of oceans without ever leaving their neighborhood’s swimming pool. And for years, I lived in the wide world through my mind, but stayed put. Like my grandmother, I walked the same route over and over again, watching the pomegranates bloom at the onset of summer, eating their fruit in the new Jewish year.
They’re blooming now, the pomegranates. Little red crowns dot Jerusalem’s trees. And like every year, I think of my grandmother. But by fall my routine will come to an end.
When these flowers will turn into fruits I won’t be here. I won’t welcome the fall with their taste on my lips.
I will be miles away by the fall. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept,” and I will weep too, by a river named Charles. Oh, I will smile and laugh and enjoy myself, surely— it will be an adventure — but Zion, my Zion, will be far away.
The pomegranate trees will bloom twice while we’ll be there. And I know that two years, after all, aren’t that long.
But they seem very long from this end.
Some people never leave their neighborhood’s swimming pool, and in a way, I know they’re missing out. You can never truly understand a place without a touch of alienation, without a moment when you see it as an outsider looking in.
I will leave Jerusalem, and rediscover it in absentia. And oh, homecoming will be so very sweet when we’ll return.
But I will miss this place, my own metaphoric veranda, this small tiny space where I can watch worlds unfold.
I will miss you, Jerusalem, and I won’t forget thee. And I will be back to see your pomegranates bloom.