What happens during those forty years? Inside the exile, even well past the halfway mark, it is never clear that only a stretch remains. It is simply life. For the ones who learn to walk on shifting sand, this landscape is the world of waking and of dreams. They rise in the frigid morning, the last stars disappearing from the sky, the canvas streaked crimson with yet another layer of the known. This is beauty. This is Is. It is only because of the sad, faraway eyes of their parents and the strange outbursts at unfamiliar deprivations that the young ones even know of the Promised Land.
That other home, that Before and Beyond, must be a torturous place if it so frayed the tempers and tightened the jaws of their elders. In that unknown land, the shattered hearts of the elders live on, orphaned from the obstinate skeletons shambling through their banishment. Who would want to return to a world that has made the old ones recoil from the copper ribbons of the very earth beneath their feet? That has so blinded their vision to the marvels of a scorpion slowly poisoning its prey for an afternoon meal?
The children grow inside those years. Their bodies move with the rhythm of the stark seasons. In the awakening music of fertile flesh, they grow children of their own. They nourish their young nomads with cactus meat and the flesh of lizards cooked over low, dry fires. Their babies’ soft scalps absorb whispered incantations against the dark prophesies of the elders who cling to life with a barbed, unbending grip.
Even at year 39, they have no idea that this is not forever. Beneath the gaze of the grandparents, the young ones chafe as they say prayers aloud in a distant tongue to a god they have never met. In the silent conversations of their own hearts, they speak to sand and sky, and ask only for a better hunt, a low wind, and that perhaps the baby will come without trouble. They do not know deliverance is drawing ever closer. If they were to learn of it, they would guide the old ones to the border and gently nudge them to cross over. Then they would steer the remaining caravan back to the sloping, arid valley they have crossed a hundred times, and claim that unfixed landscape as their true home.