The muse is a bird, I’ve decided. A small thing, with delicate feathers and a sharp beak. Ever-present but fleeting. Some days, it soars just under the clouds; others, it stays close to the ground.

Sometimes, the muse flies straight into windows. High on houses, the transparency glaring, nothing to shield it from thinking it can continue unimpeded. The sound is jarring, of flesh and small beating heart, stopped with force, with sound, with impact. The muse sits, stunned, looking as if there is no breath left, while it collects what it knows and builds confidence until it can take off once again.

Once, I surveyed the Hula Valley. Full cold leaves under white sky. I had the distinct feeling that the world ended not far from where I stood, on a one-lane road. Under full branches, wildflowers painting the landscape. Not far beyond, red-lettered signs warned of land mines.

The air tasted wet that day, dust kicking up along the road as an Army bus ambled away. I was on that bus and I left the valley, but the birds remained.

Overhead, they formed congregations, coming from all directions to their journey midpoint, the northern-most place where the papyrus plant grows. It was fog-darkened where I was, but the sun shone clear on Lebanon. Egrets spread their white wings and lifted away from the earth.

Before we made the valley livable, the birds used to die in mid-migration. No more. Now, they have a place to stop.


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