Log Cabin Chronicles

Royal Orr

Invading a little Eden


NAZARETH, ISRAEL | It was hot and dusty in Nazareth. The street that ran beside the spot where the angel Gabriel spoke to Mary the Mother of God was torn up by Caterpillar tractors laying a new water line.

The cameraman and I carried fifty pounds of film equipment each in the mid-day sun. The temperature hovered close to forty degrees. The Franciscans' hired muscle had just run us off the grounds of the Church of the Annunciation. We hadn't paid the filming fee in advance. A tiny sign on a wall pointed up a stone-strewn street to another holy site. We stumbled over the broken cobblestones where the arrow pointed.

As sites go, even the most devout would have to admit that it was minor, not even worth another minute in the scorching heat. We turned around and trudged back down the hill.

There was a gate in the stone wall that ran on one side the street and in the gate, a door. The door was closed when we first passed it, but now stood open. A tiny brass plaque read, &quto;Les Réligieuses de Nazareth."

We were a film crew, so we pushed inside.

It was like stepping through some magic portal into a different world.

Suddenly we were under the shade of two enormous date palms, heavy with orange clusters of fruit. They stood at the front of a small garden planted with dozens and dozens of rose bushes, all in fragrant bloom. A small fountain splashed in the corner.

We were stunned and stood gaping at the beautiful garden in front of us. My cameraman recovered quickly and stared filming this tiny Eden. A flutter of dark cloth down a stairway to our right roused me.

A nun no more than four and a half feet tall was bustling towards us. Her look was at once disapproving and apologetic. While the camera rolled, she admonished us gently for bringing our camera into their convent. She regretted that this was not permitted without prior consent from the Superior.

I detected a French accent and switched into that language. I explained that we were from Canada and filming for a church-sponsored television program. She was intrigued by my "drôle d'accent" and introduced herself as Soeur Véronique. I think she was amused by our high tech invasion of her cloistered garden.

We chatted for several minutes.

"Have you enough pictures yet?" she asked with a sweet smile, nodding at the camera guy.

"Yes," I said, trying to look appropriately guilty and contrite. It was rather difficult.

She invited us to stay for a glass of juice and we sat in the middle of the roses under the spreading fronds of the giant palms and talked of the Palestinian Christian communities of Galilee and their struggles to survive.

After several minutes, we took our leave. We stepped through the door, from Eden back into the hot dusty world of toil and tears.

Part 1: Coffee in the desert

Royal Orr of Hatley, Quebec, moves around some these days.

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