Under the volcano
On our way to the volcano of Methana, we pass the village of Kameni Hora and I feel the desire to stop and stay. On this day we drive on, our destination is the volcano. We enjoy the hike and the wide view. In a beautiful place high up in the sky, surrounded by weather and space, we sit together for quite a while and the moment, the connection sinks deep into me. We climb down the steep serpentines with the car on the other side and celebrate in the tavern at the sea.
A few days later, we come back. This time I’ll stay in Kameni Hora. I can also see the volcano from down here. The soft red stone arches over the village. Opposite the tavern is a small amphitheatre, stone steps, wild artichokes, beehives, butterflies, everywhere it blooms. On the warm stairs I can relax a little. I’m slow, the camera’s close. It is already the 8th day of Miksang Intensive. We explore how we can clearly and alertly get in touch with exactly where we are. How sensitive and present we are. We reflect the experience of moments. Develop sensitivity for change, for impermanence. The day before I gave the group the task “photography of people”. In the morning I spoke about this quote from Chögyam Trungpa, which has accompanied me for years.
“The only true elegance is vulnerability.”
It sounds like two terms that don’t belong together. Elegance and vulnerability in one thought. We often avoid being vulnerable, often even insecure – let alone fragile, unprotected or sensitive.
The participants stepped inside and came back with awake experiences and pictures. They chatted with the fishermen in the harbour; had fun with parents and children playing together on the pier. Others felt their own shyness towards strangers or familiar people. I’m one of the shy ones. I like to find myself in situations and looking at people, noticing their peculiarities. But my camera often stays in the pocket for strangers. A few days before I had followed the invitation of fishermen to have a schnapps and a bite of raw tuna to experience that I didn’t even know how to behave because of all the uncertainty.
No one can be seen here far or wide. I hear sheep.In the middle of the countryside, a phone booth. Next to a house I discover the most precious compost I have ever seen – a mixture of flowers and early figs. Ants carry huge stalks. Every now and then an impressive old car drives by or a smell blows towards me. To the right and left of the street narrow paths lead to accumulations of houses. I’m turning right. Drops of light fall on laundry that hangs on the line to dry. White towels of different weave. I am so absorbed in what I see that it is only after a little while that I notice the woman sitting on a chair not far from the laundry. The path has widened and is at the same time the terrace in front of her house. She invites me to join her at the table and we start a conversation of words and gestures. My few Greek words will soon be exhausted. She points to her black clothes and tells me her husband died. I understand that immediately, her expression is unambiguous. She disappears into the small house and comes back with the framed picture of her husband and a glass of water for me. So we sit together at the table for a while. May be because we can’t talk, I touched her arm. I ask her when her husband died, she doesn’t understand me. I don’t realize how long ago this loss occurred. In a kind of absurd uncertainty I reach for my smartphone and try to translate my question. No signal. Immediately I realize how unnecessary and disturbing this was and I put the phone deep into my pocket. She unfolds her tiny phone and shows me a photo of two cherries in a display that is smaller than a matchbox. We continue the touch-and-talk. She traces the scars on my elbow and I try to explain to her with gestures which accident caused them. We laugh. She shows me the scars on her arm. Her neighbour comes and together the two women show me the goats in the nearby stable. When I say goodbye, the cherry phone rings and I hear her say that a German is here. She’s waving.
I continue my way through the place. More flowers, more lush games of light and shadow. Behind the church on the cemetery, which leans tightly into the slope, I find two graves decorated with fresh flowers. I sit there for a while. Two crosses stand out brilliantly in front of the volcano.
On the way back to the tavern I meet my friends. I enjoy these changes of being alone and enjoying together what surrounds us. The three of us try to catch the shadows of the insects on the wall of the house. The day feels like all the senses are showering, one of you says. The vastness, the scents, the warmth of the sun. In the tavern Theodoro, who by the way also built the amphitheatre, serves us a snack and lemonade, wine and homemade liqueur from the blossoms that butterflies love so much. When I say goodbye, I tell him about my encounter with the mourner and ask when the man died, if two weeks ago or two months? “Two days ago,” he says. In the second grave, Theodorus’ father was buried. He died ten days ago. There it is again, the sadness in the midst of all this wild beauty below the volcano.
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