Spring seems to be testing us out here in Jerusalem, seeing if she wants to stay a while or come back later.
I woke up in the middle of the night last night – it was warm and I couldn’t sleep. All I could think about was riding my bike, and how long it has been since I used it for anything besides a clothes hanger.
I finally fell back asleep, and was relieved when I opened my eyes and there was sunlight at last. It was pretty early for a weekend; usually I would have closed my eyes and tried for another hour or two of sleep. This morning, I climbed out of my (still Princess and the Pea-style) bed and into shorts and a shirt. I checked the tires and was out of the house, into the world of Friday-morning Jerusalem.
As I hopped on my bike, I waved to the owner of the laundrymat down the block. I slowed down as I came to the curve that was the site of my spectacular meeting with the pavement, since I think once was enough. Riding past the shuk was a sensory explosion: the blood was pumping through my legs as I crested over the hill, and I was greeted with the cinammon-sweet smells of the bakery and then felafel and shawarma, fresh foods and trash. I weaved around people getting an early start on their shopping for the day and felt alive.
From the shuk I rode to Gan Sacher, the big park of Jerusalem. I rode around through, and to the botanical gardens right next to it.
The botanical gardens are amazing – wild and unkempt, not like other botanical gardens at all. There’s some kind of abandoned Finnish (I think) church or embassy or something in the middle of it, crumbling and proud. The gardens are hilly and rough; the path is ill-taken care of, at times just a potholed, gravelly dirt path. I felt like a kid, I was enjoying the ride so much.
And the people – this is one of the main reasons I love Jerusalem so much. There were runners, people walking their dogs, religious people out for a morning stroll. I passed some tourists, and what looked like a field trip of a class of small children learning about their local flora and fauna. Later I had to play don’t-hit-the-kiddies as they were relocating right when I was going for a second loop (riding and navigating the paths was too much fun the first time around – I had to go again in the other direction, just to see if it was as good).
I came home through the shuk again, just for kicks. I got to my building… and the wheels kept turning. I rode on, through the monastary and into the neighborhood on the other side – quieter, but green and with beautiful old Jerusalem homes. I explored small streets for a little bit before finally returning home, thoroughly satisfied.
My ride was so happy and life-affirming – kind of like spring itself. The weather is warmer, at least for today, and I was barefoot writing this, and that is enough, for now. Now it’s raining, a soft gentle caress that cleanses the city and eases the transition away from winter. I’m going to sleep with the door to my balcony open so I can hear it, and smile in my sleep.