As you make your way from bustling Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, the landscape changes. Perhaps more quickly and starkly than I've ever experienced. Suddenly, the hills rise up in giant dunes of rock and sand.
The Dead Sea is a center of health and wellness in Israel, and the world. While its position on earth is so low, the mineral content of the salt and mud is extremely high. People come here from all over to float, to smear their skin with rich, smooth mud, and to heal whatever ails them.
To float here, on the second day of the trip, was surreal for me, and quieting. I was surrounded by people -- pilgrims, in some respects, like me -- and yet, I haven't felt more alone in years. The experience is intense, and while it was joyous for those with their families, for me it was profoundly solemn. The striking beauty of the place, the peacefulness of the water, the rosy glow of Jordan in the distance, lit by the fading sun, nearly felled me.
And yet, that water -- so salty, so dense, so buoyant -- kept me up.
And up I stayed.
When I emerged, I took a deep breath, rinsed off, and continued on with my journey of discovery.