He pours the tea into the dry, cracked earth and studies the leavings. It is windy and hot today, hotter than most days he can remember. The liquid is gone before he glances back, sucked into the bosom of the earth. A flock of white, long legged birds lifts from a nearby mango tree, suddenly, as if called. He glances at their direction of flight, nods his head, confirming what he has already seen in the cup. Unfolding himself from the tufted cushion, he sighs the breath of one in expectation, for whom the expected is a long wait away. The palanquin bearers are already rigidly standing at attention. He moves the shielding curtain and eases himself into the box, feeling the bearers adjust their hold to accomodate his thin frame. He breathes a prayer of protection as they lurch into motion. Following the light they see at night, only guessing by day. Not long now.
The old man shrugs in the cold air as he checks the numbers again. This can’t be right. Done the numbers, though, and I can’t come up with a different result. How can this be? Glancing at the wheeling stars overhead, he hears one of his wives moving below, surely boiling the water for the tea. Making a sudden decision he calls to her below. The house leaps to life, dark though it be outside, and all are busy within a few moments with the preparations. His eldest son, the one never interested in his father’s work but deft enough with a sword, scurries to the camels, calling their names in the predawn hush. Yes, I will go. The proofs are incontrovertible. I must answer. Glancing again to the planets, those long-studied friends, he calls into the night for protection in his journey. Yes. I will go. Be with me on my search.
Leaves are rustling under his feet as he turns his back on the high green hills. The long line of servants, slaves, and acolytes strewing his path with orange blossoms long since ended, his only friend now is the young colt drawing his carved and painted carriage. Packed behind him are the precious gifts of jade and coral, but the most precious casket, the one holding the holy spice, is tucked deep within his embroidered robes. Long have we prepared, O great one. Long have the ancients called for you…and I was chosen to answer. He steels himself, straightening his back, thinking of the many rivers to cross, the many hills to leave behind. He checks the horizon for the point of light. You are ours, too. You belong to all of us. I come, holy one.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”… And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.