— Joy Riggs
The weathered hotel lifeguard stands knee-deep in the brine. “Come,” he gestures. Like
compliant kindergartners on a field trip, my husband, our two sons, and I approach, single
file, sand dusting our naked toes.
On my turn, I grasp the man’s steadying hands and squeeze hard as my pale feet slip on
rock. He turns me around to face the strip of beach and the luxury resort beyond, its palm
trees lush and green against buff-colored Moorish architecture.
“Sit,” he says. I ease into the seventy-five-degree water, which feels like silk against my exposed
skin. Below me, I see no fish, no algae, no bubbles of air. If I were back at home on the
other side of the world, I wouldn’t see fish either. It’s almost Christmas, and Minnesota’s
10,000 lakes are frozen over.
The man pushes me gently, and I float out to my family. Knees bent, shoulders back, we
bob in the hypersaline lake as though reclining in invisible chairs. We are as buoyant as
yellow bathtub ducks. We paddle gingerly.
“Don’t splash. It could get in your eyes,” my older son warns.
Across the expanse of blue rise the golden mountains of Israel and the West Bank. Above
us, puffy clouds turn dark as the sun sinks toward the horizon. It is impossible to soak it
all in: the layers of history and culture in this region, the comingling and cleaving of
religions—Christianity, Judaism, Islam—over centuries.
Later, when my husband creates a photo album of our jam-packed week in Jordan, there
will be no evidence of this moment of grace. It’s okay. I can close my eyes and return
Arms outstretched, face turned toward the heavens, I exhale deeply, marveling at how a
dip in the Dead Sea can make me feel oh so alive.