Last week I spent the afternoon wandering around the Great Pyramids in Giza. Several years ago, I got to see them on a visit to Cairo, and we rode camels out to them, which meant that we came in the back way. It also meant that we had already committed to some kind of alternative transportation (that is, besides walking).
This time, we walked up to the pyramids on foot. That meant that we were fair game for all of the purveyors of transportation: the camel and horse and horse-drawn-cart sellers who--it seems--go on as far as the eye can see, all the way to the base of the pyramids, which rise shockingly from the desert and by themselves justify the trouble.
They do justify the trouble, too. Because they are so hard to believe, and yet there they are, both larger and smaller than you expect them to be. They've been there for century upon century, and standing there staring at them (while you tell yet another man on a camel that you'd really prefer to walk) it's hard to avoid thinking about all of the people who have stood there in the same spot, thinking the same kinds of thoughts.
I'm really grateful for spaces that take us back into the past, that remind us that history is long and slow and our lives are short and the years flash by like sand in the wind. But I'm grateful, too, that the earth is rich with beauty--amazing, astonishing beauty--that doesn't require you to learn how to say "halas" to a man on a camel.