It is three years since I left my last corporate position, determined to launch into a less predictable and more adventurous lifestyle (*). Extensive traveling was not part of a formal plan – I did not have any plan anyway. I ventured into the unknown with a taste of fear in my mouth and a flame of faith in my heart, mustering the courage to dive into an intangible flow and let the current take me to vast oceans and new shores. Little did I know that I was about to turn into a modern (female) Ulysses, landing on several exotic countries and filling my travelogue with experiences I never thought I would have. And, as months passed by, traveling became not just an integral part of my identity (even though I had been a frequent traveler since childhood), but, mostly, an indivisible part of my consciousness. On a perpetual quest for Ithaca – the mysterious home which is permanently luring the voyager deeper into the corners of the psyche – I do not travel anymore for recreational purposes, nor for business: I travel to keep exploring myself through the heartbeat of the lands and the eyes of humanity. [Read more…]
The ancient marbles were suffused with sunlight and the heat echoed on the stones as I stood at the edge of the Propylon (the original entrance) of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods (*), looking down towards the Theatral Complex. A group of tourists was gathered in the orchestra (the center of the theater), droning around their guide who was gesticulating emphatically. They were a poor mock-up of the initiates that used to stand at the same place thousands of years ago; yet, within the, otherwise, empty archaeological site, their appearance bespoke the importance of the human presence and restored part of the lost vividness amidst the surrounding ruins. My gaze stretched beyond them in search of the eminent columns of the Hieron (the temple), but only the verdant strip of the island, surrounded by the blue ring of the sea, could be seen. The clusters of buildings where the mystic initiation ceremonies took place in antiquity were lying at a lower plateau, invisible from the viewpoint of the entrance. To reach them, one should keep walking downhill, in a wisely designed symbolic movement towards another world – the world where the chthonic gods reside – or, more importantly, towards an inner part of the person’s psyche where something unknown is to be discovered or something forgotten is to be retrieved. [Read more…]
The serpentine road of the Qadisha valley receded into the shadows of the mountains, confidently coiling around the slopes with the contentment of having fulfilled a holy mission – a well-deserved sentiment, since our journey’s end, the reserve of Lebanon’s Cedars of God, finally lay in front of our eyes. Filmy stripes of snow covered some of the ochre-tinted peaks at the horizon, reminiscent of the winter days that had only recently been swept away by April’s joyful hand. Ahead, the forest extended in scaling foliage plateaus, emitting woody fragrances and an enchanted ambiance of comfort and belonging.
We rambled through the paths, and the ancient trees yawned and stretched at our passage, as if coming out of a lethargic afternoon nap, gently massaging their fluids back into vividness. Hollow eyes, carved by age on 5000-year-old woods, followed us drowsily with the intimacy of an old friend, bearing a wisdom so primeval that my consciousness could not grasp. Fairies dashed among the branches, and naked female bodies, intertwined like the figures of Nature and Divinity in Khalil Gibran’s unsung paintings, emerged from the wrinkles of the barks. There was an absence of noise but not silence, for the whispering of eternal storytelling was audible, and the lapping of time on the shores of the present reverberated like a heartbeat. [Read more…]
Orion buckled his belt and, with his gigantic legs spread out in a straddle and his eyes eternally scintillating, he set off for another journey on the highways of the Athenian sky. The last remnants of sunset’s fuchsia were flurried away towards the island of Salamis. Some of the ancient marble ruins in the Acropolis area whispered their concluding lines before getting blanketed by night, others livened up on their pedestals illuminated by fame and lights alike, and young couples concealed their protracted kisses in the mystery of the twilight.
I meandered through the insular alleys of Anafiotika, whiffing the silk in the scent of the gazia trees, their honey-golden blossoms invisible in the dusk. The shacks of the neighborhood, humble and old, slanting against the sacred Rock of Athens, were silent: rickety shutters tightly shut, benches and chairs deserted outside locked doors, clay pots with flowers and basils trimly lined up next to whitewashed walls and stairs. A few scattered street lanterns placed under the protection of antefixes – little more than candle flames in a somber sanctuary – were whispering in faded amber hues. And everything was holy, for the grace of Goddess Athena was cascading from her temple overhead, and the rock itself, emerging not just from above and around but even from within the modest constructions, exhaled energy that was healing and invigorating at the same time.
The weather had been bad for two consecutive days. Ymittos mountain remained mantled with steamy mist, the world seemed permanently concealed behind hefty liquid veils, and a frosty void silently penetrated objects and life alike. At nights, my house creaked and groaned like a sailing boat in a storm. The veranda tents banged against their metal supports, the window glasses crepitated, and the trees in the yard twisted and wiggled like possessed creatures in a trance.
Sleep was short and disturbed, dominated by a repeated dream: an old, pirate-like chest levitating in shapeless darkness. Invariably, the lid would pop open by itself; I could even hear the jingling sound of the lock underlining the acuteness of the vision. Bending over to look inside, expecting some treasure to be revealed, I would consistently be greeted by emptiness – an intangible presence which, I felt, was scoffing me for my ongoing inability to see any trail ahead. It was true: I was still groping my way forward, clarity being so limited and constrained it felt non-existent. [Read more…]
The first time I read the book “Women Who Run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, the famous Jungian analyst and powerful cantadora (storyteller), I remained astounded at the quality of guidance we get from folktales, and the level of my ignorance in understanding and using their priceless advice. Gradually, I realized that although our intellect takes the tale’s plot at literal value, the psyche invariably translates the elements and designs into a much deeper-seated wisdom and, if let free, it uses this wisdom to enrich our already acute power of intuition. Ever since, I search into the nooks and corners of every story, looking for the details I might have missed, the messages I overlooked, and the growth of the tale’s main characters who, on the surface, may look raw and simplistic, deep down though they are profound and complete. As I proceed, I steadily delve deeper into my own psyche, recording my observations, perceptions, and insights to comprehend this subtle development that comes through further reading and, above all, conscious living. [Read more…]