|4 Jul 2004 @ 18:03, by John Ashbaugh|
Here is the excerpt from the beginning of a newly published book:
Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother
by Lesley Hazelton
which I recently came across while browsing through the local library.
“Her hair is almost black, and has been folded into a single braid down her back for as long as she can remember. The weight of it raises her chin and makes her walk tall, as she has learned to do when carrying jars of water or bundles of kindling on her head. You don't bend under the burden. You root into the ground and grow out of it, reaching up and becoming taller. The greater the weight, the taller you become: the peasant woman's secret of making the burden light.
Her thin linen shift is torn from snagging on rocks and thorns. Even the patches are torn, and the original black has long since faded into gray. When there's a village feast -- a wedding or a circumcision -- she begs a few threads of brightly colored wool from the old women, the ones too infirm to do anything but sit and weave, passing stories and shuttles back and forth in the sun-baked courtyards. Then she and her girl cousins huddle together, giggling as they work the threads into each others' braids. They have two colors: red from madder juice, yellow from kaolin clay. They've never seen blue wool. Only the rich can afford indigo, and in this village, as in all the Galilee villages, everyone is poor.
The shift hides the gentle bulge in her belly. She is unmarried, and pregnant. Sometimes, when she's sure nobody else is around, she'll fold her hands just below the curve, feeling how much it has grown. Her grandmother once told her you could know a child's sex before it is born by where you put your hands: above the belly means a girl, below the belly, a boy. Or is it the other way round? She can't remember, and it doesn't really matter. Like every pregnant woman, she hopes for ten fingers, ten toes, a hungry mouth and a lusty yell -- a healthy baby, despite the odds.”