April 3: On the way to the Dead Sea, we passed desolate mountains randomly streaked ash-white or in pastels. That was impressive. But even more awesome (perhaps because it was so unexpected), we saw areas of lush tropical trees in the desert; and nearby were shrubs and seedlings covered with immense netting to enhance their growth.
North of the Dead Sea, we visited Qumran, where the Essenes composed and secreted the Dead Sea Scrolls. We viewed the extensive but modest living quarters of these sequestered scribes. Above us, we saw the various caves carved out of mountain rock that housed these invaluable biblical documents.
Just before twilight, we arrived at the Oasis Spa across from the Dead Sea. Marie and I gingerly waded in the water, making sure not to get the high concentration of salt in our eyes. Not a problem: no waves, no frolicking youngsters, no commotion at all—just a lot of old folks like ourselves effortlessly and serenely floating in the restorative (if slimy) sea.
Requiem for a Toenail
All of my adult life, I have had ingrown toenails on my big toes. A few years ago, the one on my left foot got so infected that I had to have it (and the whole toenail, as it turned out) surgically removed. Since then, most of it has regrown—mercifully not ingrown—but it is brittle and looks like a veined, grotesque claw. My podiatrist must have been a butcher in another life. Not wanting the same ugly, embarrassing result for my right foot’s big toe, I have scrupulously excised any bit of nail that begins to cut into the tip of my skin.
A couple of days ago in Tiberias, Israel, I noticed a different problem: a snippet of the base of the toenail was missing, and the remaining toenail was a bit loose at that spot. I got alarmed. The toenail on my left foot was an eyesore; now the toenail on my right foot was beginning to erode from the bottom up.
Yet I had no time to dote on that specific anxiety. I was worried enough the next day when my wife and I journeyed to the Dead Sea on part of route 90 that (as our GPS warned us) went through a potentially dangerous portion of the West Bank. Thankfully, we had no mishaps along the way.
I was so grateful to have made it safely to the Dead Sea that I even forgot about my disappearing right toenail. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed luxuriating in the restorative salt waters at the beach and at the spa where we were staying.
Before we left the hotel, however, I happened to look at my right foot: the big toenail was completely gone—probably because of its being immersed in such high concentrations of salt. At first, I was shocked. Then I reevaluated. I thought of the upside. I would no longer have to painstakingly dig out the beginnings of an ingrown toenail on my right foot. And I would no longer have to fret about the prospect of having another botched surgery to remove an ingrown toenail. Of course, if the toenail regrows, it might look like the disfigured one on my left foot; but for now, I am content.
Tony Bennett may have regretted leaving his heart in San Francisco. I am relieved that I have left my toenail at the Dead Sea.