................................................................fragile simplicity............................................................                                                     

            

 Avdella 

 

     
 

 Eight tenths of Greece is mountainous and as you probably already know, it is one of the most mountainous countries of Europe.

The Pindus Mountains lie in the country's centre and continue as the islands of Kythera, Antikythera and end in the islands of Crete and Rhodes. I remember being taught in school the islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains, a geological extension of the Pindus, and that was when I promised myself one day I would make a pilgrimage there and visit Avdella in Western Macedonia.

Years later, I sat in a comfortable taverna gazing in mindless fascination through a kitchen window at those white-capped, acutely steep peaks that surrounded the village on three sides at the highest point of central Greece. Outside the icy wind howled and grumbled through the town. Inside the centre of attention, the stove, purred contentedly, squatting on its concrete blocks, it being the only source of heat in the whole building apart from that coming from the open kitchen.

Winter months were bleak and although Spring was well under way, the tables and chairs gathered around the stove had been left to make the diners feel more comfortable. It dawned on me that for the first time in two week's walking I'd be comparatively safe from the unsettled weather, the bears, the  foxes and the ever-curious wild goats; safe that is, except for the creatures in my dreams. Only two days earlier, while tramping through the woods on the slopes near Avdella, I thought I saw a wild boar, a rarity nowadays, and if it had seen me, I might have been its lunch.

Each morning started the same. I'd wake to the sounds of farmyard noises and voices I could never understand, never quite sure what century I was in, even when I stayed in towns. Everything was so medieval. I was travelling in a time warp.

  

The joyful villagers of Avdella might have very little money but they are compassionate and simply not interested in status. They have a boundless humanity and are therefore rich beyond measure. I had been told of this even before I`d left my home in Liverpool and daily, as a guest in their country, I grew to realise how much I relied on that innocent hospitality to ease me on my way.

For three days, I actually stayed with a shepherd in his cottage on his insistence that he vacate his bedroom for me. Should I need the lavatory during the night, I had to navigate my way in the darkness across the room through several sleeping members of his family lying squashed together like lost souls on couches and the floor. When I offered to sleep in his barn, he protested in fractured English, "But mistre, you my guest". His name was Makis, his wife was Kata, his little daughter was Christina and her younger brother was Vasy. They always fed me well before I walked out each morning.

On my last night with them, little Christina had marched into my room swathed in a big white towel, straight from her bath and carrying a big old storybook. She read me a bedtime story, with a little puddle of bath water gathering around her feet, and I listened enraptured as she earnestly enacted the tale: the furrowed brow, the raised eyebrows and the wagging finger. I smiled at her long golden eyelashes and the tiny beads of water left glistening as she blinked. At the end of the story she gently closed the book, leaned toward me, softly touched my cheek and whispered, 'Kalinichta', before padding out of the room. Makis smiled from where he stood at the doorway. 'She say she think she know you; but in some other place.' He shook his head and smiled, then wound down the light. I closed my eyes and settled back in the darkness. What a story. What an actress! It was hard to believe I hadn't understood a single word she`d said.

 

 One morning, weary from hours of wandering and fossicking through a wilderness of boulders and rocks, I rested by a deep pool and when I leaned down and looked in, my own reflection made me jump. I kept still until I felt foolish, then withdrew a little from the pool...instinct I suppose. In a quiet moment, I began to imagine other, earlier dawns and wondered what it might have been like for some innocent primitive being, travelling in isolation, calmly unaware yet completely enlightened. I wondered about the peace of mind that comes from scant imagination. I wondered if our unquenchable desire for knowledge might be perhaps the source of all our sufferings.

 

...and so... 

...In some other time, in some other place...

 It has been in darkness and now it is in light.

It lies still, resting, unaware.

Reassuring rhythms come from within.

It feels space.

Before the light, it was cold. Aware of the sky and the horizon, the desert in between.

In the light it is warm, as are the rocks and the sand and some trees it can touch.

They are hard and warm.

It is soft and warm.

Soft is hurt by hard.

It knows these things now.

It knows it is not like these others yet knows it is of these others.

It knows it is different, quite able to shift,

unlike the rocks it climbs, or the trees where there are things to eat and drink,

or the ground where it lies to change consciousness or to rest.

It knows it is different.

It can shift.

Nothing else can, only it.

It has been waiting for the light to bring the mood to change and to shift.

It does not search.

It knows some things.

It knows not fear but has met danger.

It knows pain.

It has little desire but great need.

It needs to eat, to drink, to stretch and to rest.

It knows these things.

It knows no other like itself.

It is alone but not lonely.

On the horizon is a tree and some boulders.

It goes and finds water there.

And stillness.

These boulders are like rocks, and the water is as wet as the other water it drinks from the leaves of the trees.

Here, there is a lot of this water and the water is dark.

When it looks, something shifts in the water.

Some other thing that can shift.

Some other thing.

That can shift.

It looks into the water and is startled by the thing.

The thing in the water shifts precisely when it does.

It looks down then keeps still.

Then slowly withdraws from the pool.

The thing does the same.

At first, it likes the thing.

The thing is close but not too close.

The thing has no smell.

It senses no danger from the thing.

Then it knows something new.

This thing can shift swift as it can.

Or shift as slow.

But not different.

This thing in the water is quite like itself.

But not absolutely.

It reaches down.

The thing reaches up.

It is there but not there.

The water has the thing.

The thing loses shape.

The thing returns.

It can make the thing go away but has to wait for the thing to return.

The thing will not be controlled.

The thing can shift, just like it can.

Uncertainty.

So now there is this thing and there might be another.

It can no longer rely on the sky or the sand or the distance.

When the darkness returns and it lies down to rest,
 
it knows there are more things to know,

 and from that moment on

it
dreams...

 

                                 

 

 

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