An organizing principle for an exploration is a useful foil. Meaning is beside the point. We weren't seeking a religious experience by following the Stations of the Cross, which would have been a bit hard to swallow for two Jewish women and one Jewish wannabe guy. It was just a means to plot a path across the Old City of Jerusalem, and pause to consider where we were.
The route starts deep in the Moslem quarter by St. Stephen's Gate. It winds uphill on Via Dolorosa, passing rug merchants and Christian kitsch stands, through the crowded Arab souk, and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepelchur.
The first two stations, in a Franciscan monastery, are a peaceful retreat from the busy street. The next few are plaques on the street, or grotto-like chapels just off it. Inbetween are the inevitable come-ons from the rug merchants and souvenir shopkeepers. Now Robin is catholic only in her ability to talk with anyone, which means that even a rug merchant's come-on is an opportunity for a conversation and a connection. "No, !'m not buying one," she'll start, and 15 minutes later we've learned that the rug dealer is half-Armenian and half-Arab, that the store’s been in his family for generations, and he’s shown us the old pre-Roman cistern 20 feet deep in the back of the shop.
Felicity's jet black hair and dark skin gets her mistaken for a local, and queries are sometimes made to her in Arabic. I am having experiences that are just not going to happen when I'm on my own, even if I am nearing an anxiety attack from the jostling, claustrophobic crowd in the souk.
The ninth station is just outside the courtyard of the rooftop portion of the Church of the Holy Sepulchur controlled by the Ethiopians. In my time in Jerusalem, I have found myself even more sensitive than usual to the feeling and energy of place. Something here is powerful in that regard. Of all the sights in Jerusalem, this was the one place where I felt a broad aura of peacefulness and gentle love. The courtyard was spare, and a dome of the the church beneath us penetrated the bare expanse. Three Africans, in robes, were talking in a corner, in evident friendship and comradery. A man sat reading on the next terrace level up, his eyes shielded from the sun by the shadow of a line of laundry, which were probably religious vestments. Tour groups passed through, on the way to the next Station, but I didn't want to leave this wonderful place. Robin looked into my eyes and said, "You're really here."
This is the best mental place to photograph from, and I slowly tipped the sensations in my mind and body into compositions. Arrangements of shape and form that seemed to match my inner state were what I was seeking. In a few weeks, when I see the film (yes, I’m shooting film), I'll see what sense of this place I captured.