Tuesday, 8 February 2011

"In the Mountains, There you feel Free"

Nowhere is really lived until remembered. As if that larger world that we inhabit cannot be accessed in the present moment because our awareness is so focussed – on what we have to do today, trying to remember the Greek word for tomorrow [for example] – and why do some words stick easily in the mind and others resist recall like stubborn children who do not want to stop playing and come inside? I have resorted to aides memoire to help me remember some – vreHi (it's raining) – I think of the French vrai; avrio (tomorrow) [like avril]; - whil
e simera (today) and tessera (four) are easily remembered.

Now I no longer have to concentrate on where I'm going either when leaving or returning home – I can wander freely in the old town, discovering new streets and new routes, and knowing roughly what direction I'm going in and where I will end up. All these new sights claim my attention of course – or there's shopping at the market or thinking about the various different projects that I'm writing. I work on several things at once. Some of them do actually get finished. Some of them will no doubt end up as fragments, such as Solomos left after his death, to the great dismay of his ardent admirers. Fragments! You mean after all these years when we've been waiting for some wonderful things to emerge from his pen he's only left us fragments! More on Dionysious Solomos will appear later – that's one of the pieces I'm in the middle of.

Sometimes in my dreams I enthusiastically write things. Of course I only remember a whiff of them when I wake up. There is no save button in dreams, to my constant disappointment. Last night in my dreams I remember doing exactly what I did yesterday – walking in the mountains – blue sky, blue haze in the huge vista below me, and green bushes and trees around me. Blazing sunshine and a profound sense of peace.

There are moments, and sometimes these 'moments' can last a long time if we are very lucky – when the larger perception merges with the everyday one. In these moments we live the experience fully, we do not need to remember them later to enter into the enormity of the experience. Our narrow and limited everyday perception is wrested away from its mundane concerns, and opens to the larger one. It is these moments that I am always seeking, and these moments arrive usually after all attempts have been discarded. This is not about carpe diem, about taking action in the present, it is the opposite of seizing, it is more to do with surrendering. But that surrender seems to be closely linked to effort, focus and concentration, and then the relaxing of it.

I picked a place on the map which was dark brown, with a little road going off the main one. This place was called Troumbetia but it was really only about half a dozen houses, at the summit of a mountain. When the bus dropped me off I realised I'd made a good choice. I followed the little road, then on the way back found a trail that went off the road and returned to it later on. Only a few cars passed me. The first one stopped and offered me a lift!

This place was very different from Paleokastritsa. There were no ghost villas hotels and restaurants. It was itself entirely, independent of seasonal visitors. Just a few scattered houses on the way to Alimatades. Most of the time, it was just me and the mountains and the vast undulations of the valleys before they reached the sea. I could see all around the northern part of the island, the sea on the east, before the Albanian mountains, and the sea on the west which will eventually reach the Italian coastline. But there was such a haze of blue that the land and the sea were almost indistinguishable. The road looped in long hairpin bends. In the courtyard of a house below one bend, a woman was sifting olives in a large cylindrical black sieve, making a light thumping sound.

When I stopped for lunch on the track that led off the road, there was an occasional baaing of a lamb, distant roosters calling and birds singing. Now and then an insect buzzed past and there was the faintest most delicate sound as of the earth breathing, while a slight wind stirred the topmost branches of olive trees and cypresses. A flap of birds wings. A chirrup from the dense vegetation. A further away bird call with an echo – whee-hee-hoo it goes. The sun burns my bare arms.

* the title is from T S Eliot's The Wasteland which you can read if you click on the title link

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