As we pass a township - the big one that J called "wealthy" last week; the one with all the satellite dishes; the one that the map told me later was Khayelitcha (of famed renown, meaning, I've heard of it) - I am aware that I am a white woman driving alone with two (white) children. And, okay, a pit-bull, and it is the middle of the day with lots of cars on the road, so we are safe. But still, I am aware. I am aware of the people walking along the side of the highway (especially when we are stopped at red lights). I note what must be a church group of some kind, in robes, bathing in some small body of water just off the road. It is Sunday. Some kind of communal baptism. I've seen it once or twice before. Each time, wondering about the group. About the cleanliness of the water. And I think about the conversation J and I had about poverty in Africa and poverty in North America and how one is so visible and the other is less-so, but still very much extant. And about how I had to explain to him the term "house-poor" and how he said he's grown up seeing townships and can't imagine a place without them. And I think about the children in the back of my car and how this must be true for them as well. How do our responses to such poverty change when they are a "regular" part of the landscape? When they are hidden from view and we don't know about them until later in life? Is it harder to ignore your own privilege here or is it easier to become blind to what you are so used to seeing?
When Devil's Peak comes into view I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding. I know my way home from here. Even if the road wasn't a straight shot. I know that I live just at the base of that peak. I can trace the line down the mountain side right to my door. I feel the same thrill I felt when I flew in from Durban and realized I could find my neighbourhood based on the position of the mountain, that I can find my way home from anywhere if this mountain is in view. I have never lived somewhere like that before. It is incredible and reassuring. That mountain is ancient. Unmovable. If my home is always anchored to it than it feels like my way home will also always be clear.
The rest of Table Mountain comes into view and a few minutes later my friend the Lion welcomes me back. These are My Mountains. Every time I am away from them and come back, I feel myself relax. Even if I haven't gone farther than the airport or the shipping yard. Even if I just forget about them for a while and then suddenly look up, like the other day when I was flustered when I was parking in the city and didn't look around myself more than at the numbers on the buildings and then when I came out again to go back to my car I was shocked to see that Table Mountain loomed above and filled the entire space in front of me (and in full view of where I had parked) - like I could reach out and touch it. And I laughed out loud to find it there, as if suddenly appeared. And I laughed out loud to find that I could be so distracted as to miss something so remarkable.
These mountains are my daily miracle. They call me to attention. They anchor me to ancient divinity. They point the way home. Home, to this incredible and complex city where I've chosen to throw in my lot. Home, to my cozy victorian cottage, now filled with my belongings so that when I come in, I don't just marvel at the character of the floors and windows and the trim, but at my beloved things that have come through their voyage across the ocean - from so far - and that somehow look perfectly at home in this foreign land. Fitting in perfectly, as if meant to be here.
I do not yet belong here, but sometimes I think I could, one day, not feel like such an ignorant stranger. Like maybe one day I too, will look perfectly at home here. And feel it as well. At some point, people will stop introducing me as "the rabbi from Canada". At some point I won't be new. I won't struggle to understand everyone. I won't have to look at a map to know what is around me. There is a long road to travel to get from this place to that one, and it will not be a straight shot. But just like today's drive, it will take me from unfamiliar landscapes to ones that are recognizable, and that whisper to me: You are home.