The Moment I Stood Still And Listened


It was well after dusk when we embarked on the journey. The next eight hours were about to be the most adventurous, current, and exhilarating ones I’ve known to date.  We hopped on the bus in the dark and drove off into the oblivion, for all we knew. No one spoke English and we were clearly far from home.

I wanted to rest, as I knew the climb ahead was not going to be easy. But I was scared. Is that safe to admit? I didn’t know if it was safe to fall asleep amongst strangers in darkness. Would I have woken up to an intrusion? Is it possible that’s what locals do to prey on the tourists? Whether naive or being simply unkind, I chose to stay awake and take in the lights of the city as they faded into the night while we rode farther into the desert.

We reached base at 3 a.m. An excruciating hour to be outdoors in the desert. It was freezing and the lukewarm hot chocolate was not nearly enough to keep us toasty.

After about a hundred requests—or demands, damn near—for us to rent a camel and aid in the steep hike, we politely kept trekking, excited about the moments ahead on the horizon.

Close to the summit was where my glute muscles started screaming at me to stop. One more step would be 50 too many, but I couldn’t yet see our destination, even though the sun started to peek mild colors through the blanketed black sky.

Just a few more. Almost there. Well, “there” is actually an understatement. There is not a descriptor or even an emotion to describe what was actually waiting for us on the other side of the rock.

It was a moment I’ll never, ever lose vision of. What I walked up to, peering around the corner, was something I could only ever imagine a professional photographer getting privy to on assignment and in well-deserved luck. It was a dream. An absolute sight that literally took my breath away. I mean, maybe it was the hike, climbing all those steps, or maybe it was the sheer shock of how magical one simple moment could be.

I was suspended in time. As other journeyers took out blankets, candles, photos of loved ones who had passed on, malas, rosaries, and all of their tears, I stood there wanting to cry too. Was I really here? This small-town farm girl from rural Canada, where our mountains hold the same magical wonders but not nearly the same biblical history. But that’s the thing, I really was actually here. On top Mount Sinai, Egypt, breathless, listening to the chants, prayers, and excruciating cries from those who mourned their lovers.

I didn’t know what to do next. I truly didn’t know how to just… be. I wanted to sit, but I couldn’t feel my legs beneath me. I wanted to say a prayer, but I was too embarrassed to possibly break down and weep. But now I recall that I did actually pray. I prayed silently that I would never again take anything in my life for granted. That I would never stop wandering this planet until I found every single thing that could break me open and cleanse my aching soul. All I could do was photograph this moment, knowing it was not designed to last forever.

And that’s the thing about adventures. We travel to find the next one but end up finding that each one holds the exact same message, as long as you’re willing to hear it.

The message is this: The world is going to break you open over and over again, but it’s within the moments when we stand still in a deserted place, connecting and listening to a source beyond our human comprehension, that we can grasp the innate wisdom of life and understand what it truly feels like to be fully alive. When you get to this destination, do not take it for granted. Sit there. Stay there. Be still and listen. You do have all the answers, and you already know what to do next.