It starts in the desert.
In the beginning of the world, says Genesis, the whole earth was a void and the spirit of God swept over it. This desert out on the banks of the Jordan is no void—even in the night the camels moan and the crickets chirp—but when it does get quiet some say you can still feel the spirit of God sweep by, breathe it deep down into your chest.
A long time ago, the prophet Amos looked out past his orchards and his flocks west of the river to the desert in the east and said There are days coming—yes, the vision must have fallen on him the way the sunset can make the desert suddenly cold—There are days coming says the Lord God when I’ll send a famine in the land. Not a hunger for bread or a thirst for water, but for words of the Lord. And the ground itself will grow parched and cracked with your deafness and my absence.
There are days coming said the prophet when men will wander from sea to sea, from the north to the east, they’ll run back and forth, looking for a word from me.
But they won’t find it.
It’ll be too dry, he said.
So John doesn’t wander from sea to sea. John doesn’t run this way or that. He walks straight into the river until it covers his head then out the other side where the dust gets mixed in his beard. He listens to the camels moan and the crickets chirp, and then to the silence.
The dead prophet Amos smiles. It starts to rain.