After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up to a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters--one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid." When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
When it comes to the Transfiguration, I begin in a foreign place: the pine forests of Georgia in my childhood. Where, in a certain season, the cicadas abandon their skins by the hundreds on the bark of the trees. There are transfigured bugs somewhere. But all you see are the pearl-pale skeletons of bodyshapes clinging.
In love with all things fragile, I wanted to collect them. But each one I touched crumbled. Though I tried every delicate procedure, their no-longer-feet still held fast with unseeable insect tenacity and their ghostly bodies were nearly nothing, disintegrating with the slightest pinch.
I want to say something about what it is that makes a place--however small--or a time--however brief--holy. But it takes more voices than I have. We could say something about permanence and impermanence, certainty and conjecture. The places and times that wound and heal us. The nowhere and everywhere, suspended time and fleeting time. Finding our way and losing it all at once.
On Mount Tabor, there are two churches. You would think there was only the one: with mosaic tents for Moses and Elijah and a grand sanctuary for Jesus built on the triumph and treasure of the apostolic assembly. Its doors await the Rolls Royce, the cameras, the rose-bedecked bride. But there is another: ragged quarter walls and damp, dark earth. Perhaps the site is more ancient, more true. Perhaps not. But it is certainly more inviting for the prayers of the dispossessed--a place to imagine the promise of a restored body. Fresh soil calls out, asking to be dug up for a new order, an unvisited wholeness.
The sunset falls from the crest of Tabor over fertile checkered farmlands claimed a hundred times over. If you squint, you can see the desperate effort to scrawl lines of imaginary safety. I am photographed taking a photograph, the sunset multiplied in the image, as if it could belong to more than one people.
I did manage to extract a cicada shell once, as best I could tell with all of its microscopic borders intact. It is in a plexiglass box in a mildewed chest somewhere in one of a dozen storage sites in Georgia. No one will ever rock in silent prayer over it as the women do in seclusion at Abraham's tomb. And I do not pray to it today, but to the creatures I could hear but never see emerging into the woods, the ones who search the living earth and air for what is next.