What I remember from that day was the sun as it danced on the water, causing my eyes to squint, the smell of salt and air, birds that flew in formation and playing with the nets, fingers interlocking with the rope, until it was time to cast them overboard. We came home with a bigger catch than my father had expected and he began to take me with him on a regular basis. I loved it: the water, the boat, the sun and my father. From that time forward,we were fishing at least twice a week.
The summer when I turned 11, I made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover, along with many others from Magdala. It was the first time I had ever been away from the water for any length of time. It was my first trip there. Although many went yearly, because of my mother's illness, my father would go and leave me to care for my mother. She died just before the Passover that year, and so, with no more reason to stay home, my father and I together, with the rest of our community, made that trip together. I remember singing the Psalms of Assent as we made our way to the city, feeling like I should be singing Psalms of Lament. We walked and sang in the day and stopped each night until we reached our destination.
At night, on the road to Jerusalem, we would gather, pilgrims from all over the area, and together the mothers would cook and the men would talk and the children would play. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, without a mother, I found myself wondering where to be, where to go. My father would stay with me, but after the second night, I sent him away to be with the other men. He had more to do than watch over me and he was lonely for friendship, needed to be away from the grief that surrounded us both.
I sat near the fire, alone and quiet, longing to be anywhere but on this road, wishing, more than anything to be back on the water,fishing, sitting in the sun. Lost in thought and prayer, I didn't hear his feet. Joshua, at 12, awkward and gangly, yet with that unmistakable semblance of otherness, of wisdom.
Whether he found me as a boy who liked a girl, or as God who saw a broken heart--it's hard to know. He was, after all, a boy and he was entitled to irrational love every bit as much as I was entitled to love him back. But he was that other too--that lonely and beautiful other. Something beyond human love, something I would later realize was more than holy love, it was love of God. But at that moment, at that time, it was just us--two kids with our parents, walking towards Jerusalem. And we found, me in my sorrow, him in his uniqueness, a strange place of abiding. And with him, my sorrow became, and not for the last time, a place of hope.