I was alone in a swamp under the sea. I was breathing air and listening to the sounds of hundreds of frogs, turtle doves, the occasional laugh of a kingfisher. It's strange to think that this is the lowest swamp system on earth, down here in the Jordan rift valley, suffused with the sultry, sulphurous air of the Dead Sea, a swamp of almost dwarf cypress and giant reeds.

But the swamp was far from dead. I thought of the jungle- inpenetrable, humid and singing with life. I walked, alert, looking, listening. So much life! Dragonflies droned by purposefully. Above, swallows swang around and around in an orgy of feeding. Sometimes a spur-winged plover would reel upwards, crying piercingly- "sik sik sik!" pied and harlequin neat. What were the kingfishers? I know that both pied and white breasted live in the area. I've seen pied here before, a pair heading over to Jordan, and I've seen white breasted at Eyn Geddi, not too far away. I know the call of the latter- a foreshortened kookaburra like cry, but I don't know the call of the pied. No doubt they are here to hunt the frogs, which croak into an unearthly chorus from time to time, competing with the hidden doves.

The women I came with I left far behind, daubing themselves with mud, wallowing in the shadows, fussing with their children, herding like contented cattle, soaking in the atmosphere and oily seeming waters where they floated like otters. They were enjoying themselves in their way, but the herd instinct was strong, and kept them grouped and bundled in their patches whereas I roamed abroad, breaking free of their limits.

Life is a miracle. If we could truly appreciate how much of a miracle we would feel so much more awe. The figures that Dr. Spetner presents give me some idea of the truth, but still the dimensions of it are inconceivable. We still do not understand on a deep level the design of nature. Partly this is because we, because of our secular training, do not acknowledge that this is indeed intelligent design, and partly because we have not yet been acquainted with every aspect and subtlety in the design of the meanest life around us.

True, in the dimension of space we have seen and described many wonders, down to the resolution of the electron microscope. In the realms of time we have only just begun our explorations. We can see Hashem in what happens. What really happens over time, from the building of a protein molecule to the history of a lion pride, in this, if we look with discerning eyes, we would perceive the hand of hashgacha clalit.

Copyright © 1999 Gila Atwood

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