Aug 172011
 

At the new, beautiful, alarmingly cubed Jewish Museum in downtown San Francisco was displayed, behind glass, a cheap T-shirt with a big-nosed camper hiking uphill to Half Dome, a jaunty slogan underneath him proclaiming with Hebraic hilarity: “Yo, Semite!” So, in the spirit of permissiveness (if not exactly with permission), I feel well-allowed to conflate this American Indian “sacred ground” into a collaborative collusion with the Pentateuch. Here Moses hiked. Here, between frozen waters and snow-cloven cliffs, above burned forest, in a mist of lakes, under the shelter of millennial Sequoia, the soul confronted exile from God. A people wandered in faithful ignorance, cursed their sanctified maker, were lost and were made whole. The test of obedience was taken with skin-and-bones, tense with the sense of banishment from a not-yet-visited “land of milk and honey.” How long and how longingly we will walk up what high hills on the strength of a promise believed in–far more than for a promise delivered (yesterday’s news, old stories to wrap fish in). Give me the Heaven whose frankincense I have not yet whiffed, but have imagined all my days driving through Staten Island and its wafting landfills: Arthur Kills, et al.

Slaves and lovers live in expectation, but Old Pharoah and the Pope demand a Michelangelo in harness to forge their golden thrones by the date affirmed on the invoice. Whose eyes, then, see truer? Those whose eyes see the golden now of getting-what-they-want (be it a Manhattan condo, a tax break, or refurbished tits on the wife) or those who see Freedomland from their place in line on an endless chain-gang? Do both equally “look within and love without?” Would you take a betting man’s hunch at the answer? I put one sockless, wrenched, semi-exhausted foot on the foot of the Falls, the Yo-semite Falls, and hope that lack of traction and the packed snows of a lonely winter won’t stop me before I reach the tippity-top.

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