Still August, 2004
So, how come I'm going to Crete? Some of you may remember that it was on my agenda last year, before I got side-tracked and sailed away in the other direction across the Mediterranean. Well I figure we get what we ask for, but perhaps not when we ask for it. I met a friend of Mel's who just happened to mention that he had the use of a villa in Crete, and there was an extra room that nobody seemed to want, so now (several days since I started writing) I am sitting in it typing this letter. There are 4 of us, a homeopath, a retired headmaster, a water-colourist... et moi.. the astrologer! It is an interesting feeling being on this Island of Zeus's birth. I was last here in '73, and I must say it is a shock to see how built up it's become... but realistically that could apply almost anywhere. A real positive is that this time I am far more cognisant and able to fully appreciate where I am ( + wearing shoes and sleeping in a building rather than in a cave or on the beach). Last time I was here, in a previous incarnation during this incarnation, I was a bonafide hippie and and didn't even own a pair of shoes... which is astounding because all of Greece is rocky and I used to run (okay stagger) up and down these hills daily. Who was that person? It's great because my travel companions know the island really well, a couple of them visit yearly. We've rented a car and every day we're going exploring and to different sites. This land is at the very heart of so much of the mythology that astrology is founded on, so I'm really fortunate for this opportunity to re-visit (as Mercury does it's retro thing). Much of the landscape is very harsh and barren (although we've already been to one slightly greener valley…) sadly so as it was once covered in oak and other hardwood forests, but what man didn't cut down was lost to fires. It's strange because I can 'feel' the loss, and how lush and different it must have been. What was immediately familiar from my last visit is the aroma everywhere, the pungent smell of olive trees and woody herbs is divine. Many places you walk there are fig trees (I'm eating approximately 100 a day), wild peaches (fortunately not ripe or I'd be eating those too), and wild grape vines. Luckily I'm with a group who like to walk as much as I do, and I'm doing yoga daily. No matter how much walking I did in the UK it didn’t counteract the custard, Crunchies and baked beans I was consuming. I always go into culinary childhood regression when I come back. Plus the ceiling in Mel's cottage is so low, and the beams of course even lower, only floor yoga poses are possible. I have permanent bumps on my head from simply manoeuvring around my attic.
I am a little taken aback at the amount of military activity on Crete. I know the Olympic games are taking place on the mainland, but there are countless huge aircraft laden with missile-like things taking off from here all the time, going heaven knows where. It must be extremely disruptive if they are all flying around the stadium. Several days later and my heart has opened to Crete in a new way, and although I can't exactly define it I 'know' why I'm here.
Went to the south coast today and hiked to a remote site called Lissos (inaccessible by road), where there is an ancient Aesclepian healing temple, and there are also Minoan ruins around and evidence of early Christianity. There is a tiny chapel with some extraordinary murals. Just when I'd decided that Crete was great, but I didn't feel that personally connected, I had a very powerful experience. When I reached the top of a ridge and saw this amazing little valley and bay way below I was overwhelmed by a sense of familiarity, or something similar that sent mini shock-waves through me. The temple still has an intact mosaic floor and there is a small snake pit, the rock face is dotted with burial chambers and there are remnants of carved plinths and pillars everywhere. I found it very hard to drag myself away from one particular piece of marble that was like a globe that had been cleaved in two... if it hadn't been for the fact that it weighed about 2 tons I may (not seriously) have tried to take it with me, fleeting criminal thought though that may have been, it felt like mine. I would advise anyone who wants to see Crete to come soon, they are putting new roads in everywhere, ready for the tour buses. And although some of the loveliest places can only be reached by foot or boat, it's probably only a matter of time before the hordes arrive because power-lines are being built to them. And as I said, it is astonishing how developed it has become since last time I was here. You simply no longer see the goat-herders (although there are still goats?,) or men riding donkeys. I have become good friends the other woman in our little group, Jo. She and her husband are a delight to be around, and full of knowledge about this island.
Tonight is the full moon and we are going to do a meditation on one of the sites close to where we stay... I will be here until September 7th, then back in the UK for a whole 16 hours before I turn around and fly to Prague with Melanie for 2 and a half weeks. Just enough time to wash clothes and visit the library for more books! In fact I haven't a clue what the temperature will be in the Czech Republic, so I may also be frantically beg, borrow or stealing some warm clothes.
Mad dogs and Scotswomen go out in the midday sun! Well that seems to have been the story in Greece. Strenuous, fabulous walks up craggy mountains in the blistering heat.... phew, my goaty Capricorn side (mercury/chiron/venus) was suddenly in super high gear! All kinds of hermits caves, chapels, mysterious ruins and the likes are found in little out of the way coves and on cliff sides. Found an amazing chapel built into a cave, with beautiful frescoes on the rock faces. I take back my premature cynicism about Crete being 'ruined', it could appear that way on the surface, but it's treasures just have to be worked (bloody hard) for. Had a couple of delicious days completely to myself. I really enjoy the people I'm with, but I seem to always need solitude to recharge (only child? aquarian? fiercely independent? Some combination thereof). On one of those days I walked the Samaria Gorge, 18km long and supposedly the longest in Europe. Incredibly dramatic and beautiful, wild goats, amazing colours, and at the narrowest point only about 10 feet wide. Also drove to the Diktaelon cave alone, it's a long drive from Kalives so (luckily) no-one else wanted to go. Thanks Tad for encouraging me to take that journey... you were right it was definitely not to be missed! This is the cave where supposedly Zeus was born, and it feels right, it is deep, dark, mysterious and beautiful and steeped in history and magic. What the heck if it's a myth... they feel as real as anything else on this whacked out planet. I actually had 20 minutes completely alone in it, I got to hug the rocks and stalactites and commune with the gods (indeed I did!) without looking like a fruit-cake. Interesting that we are only crazed if someone else sees us being so, perhaps another reason I love my alone time so much? 4 tour-bus-loads were wending and puffing their way up the trail towards the cave as I left. On the way back I went to Knossos, the most famous site on Crete, but it is so pristine, rebuilt to one man's perceptions, that it was actually the most disappointing place I visited. It felt contrived, but there are some exquisite pieces that were found there... e.g, the stunning statue of the Snake Goddess.