Weekly Photo Challenge: Refuge

The Monestaries of Meteora, GreeceIn the Epirus Mountains of mainland Greece there is a place like no other I have ever seen. Suspended halfway between the sky and the vast “bread basket og Greece” plateau, stretching for over 300 kms all the way to the sea it is the perfect look-out to the rest of the world far below.

This place is known as Meteora
“the floating rocks”.

For millenia it has drawn us, and for centuries it has been a place sought for worship, reflection and solitude, and the air and feel of the entire place is ripe and sated with the sense of sacred solace that one cannot help but feel awestruck immediately.

Time and weather have conspired to carve out these sanctuaries, separating them from the rest of the world by leaving these peaks defiant freestanding pillars hundreds of feet tall, accessible only by endless and often precarious staircases or rope-and-pulley basket trams (for goods).

Countless years and lives of dedication and tenacity have seen primitive caves and ledges in the sheer walls rising above the plateau aspire ever higher and grander until six fortress like monestaries grew from the rocks, humbly crowning these peaks tucked in between snow capped mountains and soaring eagles. Like small city states halfway in the sky they offer an incredible floating oasis of peace and tranquility right inbetween heaven and earth.

Being there is a journey in and of itself. The courtyards are quiet and filled with flowering bushes and trees, sheltering benches and bringing life to the unpretentious stone walls. The paths and steps are worn and the whole place emanates the presence of thousands that have come before. And yet, it feels untouched and unmarred. Ready to receive you, as if you were the first to seek its embrace. It feels clean and very very welcoming.

I could not imagine a place more suitable or accommodating to spiritual soul searching and quiet reflection.

I suppose that is why I am reminded of it when I hear the word refuge – and yet, it somehow seems an inaccurate fit. It may off shelter from the world, and respite from things as they are down below “in the real world” but it also compels a sense of duty and willingness to find and embrace new perspectives.

Meteora may indeed with its removed and unique geological location offer respite to its visitors, but it certainly does not feel like a place where one might be able to hide away – from anything. And somehow,… it feels like that is exactly the point.

More photos from Meteora – see here
Want to know more about Meteora – see here

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Refuge

Emergence

In philosophy the term “emergence” refers to how something complex and grand can come from an array of smaller relatively simple reactions and interactions.  In other words, it tells us how it is possible for something to become greater than the sum of its own parts.

Like life.

Four years ago when I started down the road I’ve been travelling, I had no idea where it would take me. It was whim and taking a chance far more than educated choice that brought me to turn onto this path… and there have been many times along the way when I have cursed myself for not picking another – or at least stopping somewhere to get a GPS before I stumbled on blindly.

Yet now, when I am finally on the last leg, inches from the next intersection… instead of feeling drained and in need of a break… I find myself with an unexpected sense of renewed energy and zest for all that still lies out there, waiting to be found.

The past four years have been a transition for me in almost every conceivable way. Not only has it taken me from one life, country and mentalt state to another – it has taken me from living in the moment to building for the future. Which is something I’ve never really done before.

It’s been difficult to get the balance right, and I have often found myself wanting to do something, yet chosen not to out of a sense of duty or obligation or sheer determination not to be distracted from my goal. Too often it seemed that choosing one would detract from the other, so it has felt like a constant struggle between staying on track and keeping afloat. Of waiting for something else to happen first before other things could be possible. Of trying to ignore what lies beyond the confines of my own perceptions of being smart, practical and responsible, so that one day down the line I CAN have all of those things I want and long for so much.

I don’t know that I made the best – or even good – choices, but I know I believed in them wholeheartedly. And I have no regrets. I chose everything – and whatever the outcome, I stand by my choices. Even if I have hated them at times.

Such choices come at a price, though, and watching myself react to others who reach out and share with me their ability to encompass new things, instead of waiting for them to happen by themselves, I can see what these last few years have done to me. How they have changed me.

In the past two weeks or so I have found myself making long lists of new hobbies I want to take on, new career options to pursue, wishes, hopes and dreams of things I’d not have dared to consider possible before. Everywhere I look there seems to be endless possiblities and exciting new things to learn, challenges to take on and life to live. I am so used to holding myself back that figuring out how to respond to all these stimuli and options is a little overwhelming. But the important thing is… I have room for more within me! And I haven’t felt that way for years!

For me this is coming out with a sum that’s greater than the parts I chucked into the mix. To feel eagerness and excitement at the prospect of new challenges instead of dread and exhaustion is… just plain… FANTASTIC!

And for the first time in a long long while, I feel like I have something to give. Something to make ME greater than the sum of my parts.

Emergence

Flawless

Flowers in the sunset
Fond Memories

Time warps our perception of the world. Like old black and white photos slowly taking a sepia tint as exposure and wear leave their marks our memories shift and distort as they fade and remerge continuously from our minds.

Tonight would have been my brother’s birthday – if he’d still been alive. It’s been almost six years now and I have learned to live with not having answers. I have stopped trying to guess at or make sense of the events that led to his death – or the feelings that caused him to seek to end it at his own hand. When I think of him now it is mostly just because he is absent. Missing from the picture I still catch myself thinking he ought to be part of. It is a fleeting memory now. One I do not dwell with or try to hold onto anymore. At least not for very long. There is no sense in arguing with the past.

The present moment on the other hand has no patience for editing or proof-reading. There is no diplomacy in its ruthless honesty or raw vulnerability… and frankly, it doesn’t always leave the best impressions. So, we push it to the back of our minds for a while. Wait for the images to dull and gather a bit of dust to shroud our sensitivity. Who needs all the facts, anyway, right? Later, we bring them back out and look at them again, and if enough time has passed we may start to see something new. Something different and more pleasant – and perhaps most importantly, something less threatening.

Time gives us the ability to refocus, I think, and over time the details lost will be the ones that we don’t want or need to remember. The real question then will be whether we’ve choosen to hold onto the good or the bad, to happy memories or bitterness and regret. Time will feed or free either at our behest. Whatever the case, reality will be lost in favour of an idealised – or demonised – image of the world as we want to remember it. And tonight more than any other night, I am so deeply grateful that despite the tears and the heartache… it is his smile I see and the sound of his voice, chiming in with mine as we sing together that time has helped me to retain.

For all the anger, resentment and devastation I have felt… in my eyes, he IS perfect. Our time together was perfect, and even though it hurts to have lost it… I cherish the images left within me.

Fond memories are flawless.

I can only hope that in the minds of those I cause harm or disappointment time will be as kind to me.

Flawless