Monthly Archives: December 2014
The cameI is a symbol associated with the second covenant and Sarah and Abraham. I researched this for the Jesse Tree Advent Project and I discovered information saying that the second covenant is called a “Covenant of Works, a prominent feature of Presbyterian and reformed churches…” I tried reading more, but there are too many arguments and definitions, all heavily debated. This is a seminary topic.
So, to continue from my post yesterday, here’s everything I know about camels and covenants. On our trip to Herat, a string of camels was heading towards the border to the then-Soviet Union. My mum, a handicraft addict, thought there might be rugs or copper sown into the saddlebags, so we got out of the car and accosted the nomads. The Tajikistani tribesmen would not relinquish any kelims, or saddle-bags (my mum asked) but offered us a consolation prize– a ride on a camel.
Desert camels are dromedaries, beasts with one hump, thought to be patient and strong but in reality, they are very stubborn, very mean and have very ugly teeth with very bad breath. Their long, yellow teeth are strung up into pendants on necklaces with blue evil-eye beads and sold to tourists.
The other English mother, Mrs. Jane, was undeterred and volunteered to go first. Did she ever lose her English reserve! The camel stood up awkwardly on front legs first, which threw the passenger forward, then lurched on its back haunches. Mrs. Jane shrieked and hollered like a banshee. Everyone, Western and nomadic, enjoyed the spectacle of the Cursing Englishwoman–only the camel was indifferent. However, Mrs. Jane was more than scared, she had trapped her middle finger under the wooden saddle and it was being pinched. It was even harder not to giggle when she pointed her bruised and purple digit at us, but we tried to be contrite because she was hurt.
To make amends, we made a covenant with this ancient desert creature. We promised never to ride a camel again. We would not even buy their teeth at the market!
When I think of floods, I think of the desert. It’s an odd juxtaposition, water flooding the desert. I’ve experienced floods here in California, along the San Bernardino mountains, but the most startling floods were in the Middle East, when I lived in Iran in the seventies.
On our holiday breaks my family would leave Teheran to explore ancient Persian landmarks and ruins, caravanning with other expatriate families. Road trip! The desert landscape of Iran looks like the stretch from Palm Springs to Phoenix, or the road from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. It’s rough and stony terrain with a slow variation in rock color and the height of the hills–not sand dunes with palm trees. On our way to Herat, Afghanistan, we saw a single cloud dumping rain over a distant hill. The earth surrounding us was scorched into a flat, salty glisten, and the ribbon of road blended into mirages of lake water, simmering in the distance. To our surprise, a mile up the road there was a real flood over the road. Run-off from the distant hill had pooled to the flatter land below it, miles away from the original deluge.
One spring trip, in the Alborz mountains, spring waters had destroyed house made from mud bricks, washing out the road too. The villagers stood, leaning on their shovels, looking grim. Our western Dads, all engineers working in the oil and gas industry, went to help but they soon returned, frustrated and angry. Instead of digging channels to divert the waters away, the Iranian men responded “insha’Allah.” It was God’s will. There was no way to change or struggle against God. The better way was submission and acceptance.
When I read Biblical stories, all set in the stark yet unpredictable desert, and populated by small, tenacious family tribes, I remember that scene. Our Western minds want action, justice and solutions. If we are hard-working and true we can re-direct the floodwaters. We have a harder time with the notion of surrender, accepting that sometimes, like a flash flood in the desert, things really are in God’s hands, or to be more secular, outside of our control.
This blog was written for www.yorocko.com as part of the Claremont Presbyterian Church Jesse Tree Advent Project. It posted there on December 3rd, 2014.