The "Palace of King Minos" at Knossos, Crete -
from Rushing to Eva, by Mary Leue 
 
 
 
... The flight was uneventful. Coming into Crete was a bit like coming into Hawaii, because of the mountain ranges which are the salient feature of the island as you approach. The airport too is at the very end of a peninsula, like the one on Oahu. I took the bus which brings one into Iraklion, the capital city of Crete. I am only now realizing, as I write this, that during my entire stay on Crete, I kept having superimposed images of where I was, and that I felt strongly oppressed in a way I cannot document during my entire Cretan visit. The effect certainly wasn't caused by the way I was treated by the people on the island, however. I found a room I could afford at the Petra Hotel, quite close to the center of town where the buses departed for various places on the island, but even here, I felt unusually alienated. The first room assigned to me by the young woman behind the desk had a wall speaker between the two beds which was emitting the kind of mindless noise known as Muzak. Heavy maroon ceiling to floor drapes shut out the street noises and the light. The lights in the room were indirect. The whole effect felt funereal to me. I could not locate the switch for shutting off the sound.
 
Picking up my bags, I marched myself down to the desk again, demanding another room without Muzak and generally less oppressive. The woman looked surprised, but handed me another room key. This one, at the very top of the hotel, was small, decorated in less somber colors, and had double glass doors opening onto a square rooftop with a low wall around it. Small trees sat in tubs here and there, and there was a picnic table for outdoor eating. The weather did not invite doing so, but at least it did not arouse claustrophobic feelings in me. The phone sitting on the bedside table rang, and I answered it. It was the woman at the desk asking if I intended to take this room. I told her that I would, and thanked her apologetically for having been a nuisance.
 
Recovering my inner balance, I left the room, went down in the tiny lift, dropped off my key with the clerk, and went out. My first task was to make a return reservation at the Olympic Airlines office in the city plaza, then cash a travelers' check at a bank. I was now ready to find out where the bus for Knossos left from, and when. This turned out to be at the edge of another small plaza with a very beautiful and ornate fountain at its center, surrounded by open-air restaurants, with small trees set here and there for shade, planted in circles in the flagstones with which the square was paved. Like Athens, Iraklion was thronged with people, and nowhere more so than in this square, even in November. The bus I caught for Knossos was a regular local one, and its passengers were mostly ordinary Cretan inhabitants, as far as I could tell. I was one of only a handful who got down at the tiny village close by the ancient ruin.
 
Exploring the large and incredibly complex architectural site which has been called by its original excavator Sir Arthur Evans the Palace of King Minos was a strange one indeed for me! Immediately I paid my entrance fee, a worried-looking man with light hair and intense blue eyes perhaps thirty-eight or forty years in age came up to me and offered a tour, warning me that the palace was so large and labyrinthine, I was likely to miss some of the rooms which contained its most characteristic features. I reluctantly agreed, and he asked me to sit on one of the benches which lined the sandy area near the ticket office. I did so, and he took a seat about twenty feet closer to the place where tourists first come in from the parking lot. We waited. Two tall young women with blonde hair in braids came in, and he sprang up to speak with them. They shook their heads and disappeared along the path which led to the site. I began to grow restless. Fifteen minutes went by. The guide glanced at me occasionally, and I began to feel like the fish that might get away, and needed to be played on the line. I rose and went over to him.
 
His eagerness to hold onto me was palpable, and increased my unwillingness to wait any longer. Shaking my head repeatedly with a smile and thanks, I turned and walked down the path, knowing he was standing behind me helplessly watching me depart. The spell of the site soon began to have its effect on me, however, and I forgot the guide. Translating the floor plan I had into a route for threading the maze of passages, long corridors, stairways to many levels, roof areas communicating with dark rooms, the whole amazing phenomenon which can only be regarded as labyrinthine, as the myth of Daedalus has it, was a real challenge, and I began to have a little regret for not having taken up the guide on his offer.
 
The part of the palace I came to first was the west wing. Turning south, past an apparent altar, I found myself walking along an open-air passage which Evans has called the Corridor of the Procession, only part of which remains. The walls of this corridor were originally painted with frescos depicting processions of what has been estimated at perhaps originally several several hundred red-brown-skinned young men and women naked to the waist and carrying various gifts and ritual objects. Two fragments of these vivid wall paintings remain, and are in the Iraklion Museum. I had to content myself with illustrations from the guidebook. This passage led down by a short stair, around a corner of the building to a dark, roofed-over passageway leading to another staircase up onto a roof area from which I could see more of the palace, including the large open court which I wanted to explore first, since the "throne room" of Minos opened onto it, as well as other central ritual chambers. How to get there was the problem.
 
I decided just to wander at will, exploring as I went along. Turning south again, I walked along a long, open, stone-paved corridor looking down onto a whole series of narrow, closed little rooms, in which stood rectangular stone chests and rows upon rows of huge pithoi, standing urns at least four feet in height, with extraordinary designs on them, their function inexplicable to me. The guidebook calls these rooms magazines, listing the total number of the pithoi stored there and throughout the palace as "perhaps as many as 420," and gives as Evans' explanation that these were storerooms. It struck me that this explanation did not entirely serve to cover the fact of the size, number, and inaccessibility of these rooms.
 
I really can't remember the ins and outs of the areas I explored in my attempts to reach the central court I was seeking. At one point, I came up onto another roof area on the south side of the palace with a low wall surrounding it. Standing against the east wall were several of the huge, beautifully decorated pithoi, and on the south wall stood a large U-shaped stone object which looked like a pair of stylized bull horns of evident ritual significance.
 
Evans, in one of his numerous drawings representing his proposed reconstitution of the original palace, shows an area extending south of the palace which he calls the "Stepped Portico," bordered on one side by the characteristic red-and-black painted columns which appear in so many areas of the palace, each one topped with a pair of the sacral horns. The evidence which convinced him that this might be the case is no longer visible, but it is certainly an impressive image, in spite of the fact that virtually none of it remains. The columns, however, are extant in many other locations. As restored by Evans, they are extraordinarily colorful and unique in effect, painted deep red or glossy black, with black, disc-shaped capitals, their length tapering downward from top to bottom, creating thus an extraordinary effect of massiveness without actual height throughout the entire palace, none of them being much taller than fourteen feet in height. I am unclear as to whether all or only some of these pillars were made of wood, how many of them were in place, and how many Evans has recreated. In fact, this issue of authenticity is relevant concerning the question of how much of what one sees throughout the palace is original and how much of what one is looking at is an educated guess or even a fanciful creation. At the time, I was perhaps less aware of it than I later became after finding a paperback on the subject in a bookstore in Delphi.
 
My chief goal, at this point, was to find a way down to the central court, which I could see from the rooftop but not reach. I really don't remember how I finally managed to do it, but find it I did, at last, coming out onto the southern end of the courtyard. The entrances to the rooms I was seeking all opened off this court on the west side, and were dark and low-roofed. The first one I came to was a small paved court which Evans has labelled the Lobby of the Stone Seat, beyond which to the north was an area called the "Room of the Tall Pithos," and, beyond that, the area of the Temple Repositories. I was struck by the extraordinary beauty and complexity of the patterning on the pithos which gave the room in which it stood its name. I wished I understood its meaning, which seemed to me somehow important, and connected with the Goddess. I dowsed it for energy, but found nothing.
 
Moving beyond it, into the small space in which the "temple repositories" had been found, I felt that I was in the presence of the center of the entire palace, that place from which its power emanated, in a quiet sort of way, just by being there. I knew from my guidebook that the most precious artifacts from the palace had been discovered here, in two rectangular sunken pits - a marble solar cross, some faience objects, and the famous Snake Goddess one sees reproduced so often in books devoted to Goddess study. Leaning over one of the pits, I dowsed it with my pendulum. It responded with a strongly female gyration! Someone was still home! It confirmed the sense of presence I had had when entering this room, connected somehow with the extraordinary evocativeness of the tall pithos at the entrance.
 
Returning to the small paved court, I next went beyond it to the west, passing through one of the two doors leading into the dark room with several sunken rectangular pits in it which Evans called the Pillar Crypts, since it also has several squared stone pillars in it carved repeatedly with signs of the labrys - the double axe from which the word labyrinth originates - as well as the sunken stone-lined rectangular pits Evans called crypts. His surmise was that this area had religious significance, the pillar being a cult representation of the Goddess, associated with the Minoan tree cult. Beyond this room, extending north, were two other dark rooms, one of them Evans called the Vat Room. I did not find any sense of presence here, using my pendulum, but I certainly did have a strong inner reaction to its atmosphere.
 
It felt to me that there was about this entire area, with the exception of the "temple repositories" room, a sense of dark primitivism, perhaps of a religious or quasi-religious nature, certainly grisly in tone, which accorded poorly with the gay and sophisticated image of Minoan culture portrayed in the restored frescos I had seen in books and was about to see in the palace and the Iraklion Museum. Looking back at this experience, I am reminded of H.G. Wells' story, The Time Machine, the part about the races of the future - one, a graceful and loving but utterly helpless people totally devoted to their own happy pursuit of leisure - the Eloi - the other a subterranean group of brutish savages he called the Morlocks, who slaved underground to produce the goods needed by the Eloi, but preyed mercilessly upon them as well. Or it may simply be that the contrast represents differences in the origin in time of these areas. If so, this one certainly felt to me to be far older than many others.
 
Emerging from this area, I next entered the area Evans has named the antechamber, the one beyond it being the Throne Room. In this large, square room stood a wooden replica of the famous throne, put there to replace a mass of charcoal which Evans surmised had once been a wooden throne, and a large porphyry basin. Gypsum benches lined the walls, and the part of the floor which held the basin and led to the throne-chair was paved with an intricate pattern of small stones. It was hard to tell what parts of this room - and of the one beyond it - were original and what had been reconstituted from fragments by Evans, but the effect was certainly impressive. It was easy to imagine some ceremony of cleansing being conducted here, using the basin in some way, the group undergoing the ceremony sitting on the benches against the walls, the priest or priestess in the chair.
Beyond it was the equally large, square room Evans called the Throne Room, the throne being a magnificent gypsum chair with a tall back with scalloped edges, its seat carved out to increase the comfort of the occupant. The guidebook states that this stone chair was clearly an imitation of a wooden one, and its shape does suggest such a possibility. The walls of this room were covered by a red-and-white frieze of griffins sitting on a white bank of undulating ground with a wide red undulating stripe running down the middle. From the ground rose the tall stems of lilies, reaching above the heads of the griffins into the redness which constituted the upper part of the wall. Below the feet of the griffins ran a wide band of wavy diagonal lines which looked a bit like stylized water, but might have been simply decorative. Two handsome horizontal white stripes topped the whole, completing the sense of regal splendor produced by this decoration. The floor was paved with large, irregular flagstones which had been carefully fitted together.
 
The entire effect was impressive and in keeping with the image of the extraordinarily sophisticated culture portrayed in the frescos I was about to see, and also, contrasted very powerfully with the rooms I had just visited. Opposite the chair was a sunken rectangular pit labeled by the guidebook as a "lustral basin," with a low wall surrounding its edges. The guidebook states that this wall was once topped by wooden columns, and that the "basin" formed the lower part of a light-well. In this room, there was no sense of presence I could detect with my pendulum. Beyond it was a suite of small, lightless rooms the book called the "Inner Sanctuary," which I found a bit spooky because of their total blackness, but equally empty of presence, as far as I could tell.
 
On the other side of the central court was the four-storied East Wing, two above the level of the court, the other two below. I was now faced with the puzzle of how to reach this area. Again, my recollection fails me as to how I managed this feat. I think what I did was to ascend the "stepped porch," a set of steps which rose up between the Tripartite Shrine and the Throne Room to the top level of the west wing, and made my way around to the north end of the palace, and from there, east. On the way, however I managed it, I climbed to the elevated portico on which a copy of the giant relief fresco of a charging bull has been placed. The power and ferocity of this animal was striking. Looking at this relief made it easy to recognize the magnificent yet deadly power of the symbol represented by this animal whose image is so prevalent in Minoan culture during this "Age of Taurus." Again, I was reminded of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur.
 
Arriving finally at the East Wing mentioned above, and preparing to descend to the roofed-in levels of the "royal apartments," I suddenly heard a voice calling, "Mees, Mees." The guide whose services I had declined was running toward me. It appeared that he had finally found a group to take through the palace, was half-way through the tour, and was offering to conduct me for half price through the remainder of the trip. Thanking him, I again declined. He seemed disappointed, almost angry at my refusal, and assured me he was a fully qualified guide. I felt as though my refusal constituted an accusation against him, and almost accepted in order to convince him it was not, but decided against it, as much to stand my ground as for any other reason, I suppose, but also, because I truly wanted to see for myself what my own response was rather than having it defined for me by a guide. In fact, it was not until after reaching home that I even read the entire guidebook through, limiting myself at the time to the bits I needed, plus using the ground plan to orient myself. I thanked him, and he turned to go back to his group.
 
The east wing was truly an amazing area, in striking contrast with the "shrine" area. The rooms were amazingly undamaged and still lined, on floors, walls and ceilings, by thick, honey-colored blocks of gypsum, and enlivened by vivid wall frescos of an extraordinary variety, beauty, and grace.
 
I think I first discovered the Grand Staircase from the rooftop of the east wing, but I may be mistaken. At any rate, I did come across it, a set of wide, shallow steps built around a parapet on which rested columns on one side, open room areas on two others, and windows on the third, all facing onto a large central light well, which gave the entire area a lovely sense of light and openness in great contrast with some of the rooms on the west wing of the palace. This staircase extended down to the ground floor. On the lowest level was the so-called Hall of the Colonnades, behind which was a corridor leading to the very large room known as the Hall of the Double Axes because of their presence, many times repeated, on the wall of a light-well to the west. This room contained another replica of the throne I had seen elsewhere, and its walls were decorated with a large spiral design.
From there, a narrow corridor led to the so-called "Queen's Megaron," a large square room with many large windows on the south and east opening onto light wells. Benches lined the windows. The walls of this high-ceilinged room were entirely covered by breath-takingly beautiful (restored) frescos of remarkably authentic-looking deep-blue dolphins with double yellow bands along their sides and white bellies, sporting among flying fish in a world of white water. The entire scene was framed by corals. A later pattern of entwined spirals could also be seen at one side which apparently also decorated the ceiling but are no longer there. Leading off this room to the west was a small windowless one Evans dubbed "The Queen's Bathroom," because of the presence there of a bathtub-shaped clay chest which is of the kind used by the Minoans as coffins, and so, probably was not used for bathing. Off the "megaron" also ran a dark, spiral-decorated passage leading to several rooms, one of which was connected to the elaborate drainage system which runs throughout the palace, and another staircase leading upward to the floor above.
 
To the south of the central staircase was a suite of rooms which Evans believed to have belonged to a priest, because of the presence of a "lustral basin," three small pithoi and a clay "bathtub."
 
The levels above the ground floor also contained several interesting rooms. I did not at the time identify the "Shrine of the Double Axes," since all of these artifacts were now in the Iraklion Museum. Evans found it filled with many religious artifacts including several clay "Goddess" figurines, two pairs of plaster sacral horns, each with a socket in the center for receiving the shaft of a double axe, many clay vases, jugs and cups, and a tripod altar cemented to the floor. His belief was that this room had been converted to a shrine during the late, "Postpalatial" period. I could only experience this "shrine" in retrospect, after reading the guidebook and actually seeing the artifacts at the museum. I did, however, appreciate the so-called "Veranda of the Royal Guard," which I believe was on the top floor, the east wall of which was richly decorated with frescos representing a row of geometrically-patterned figure-of-eight Minoan shields, brown, blue and white, set off from the golden wall color by bands of intense sky-blue.
 
Looking at the many fragments of restored frescos decorating the walls of the upper floors of this wing of the palace, there seemed to be two kinds of people shown, and two kinds of activities. One kind seemed totally religious, ritual in nature, and depicted a people with red-brown skins and curly black hair. The other variety seemed to show a much higher socio-economic stratum of people - the women fair-skinned, with elaborately ringletted black hair dressed in flounced blouses and tiered skirts which looked like crinolines. These women looked, in fact, so "modern" in their sophisticated and fashionable stylishness that Evans called a group of them the "Ladies in Blue," and another, "La Parisiènne." Only one equally fair-skinned young man was shown, the so-called "Priest-king" or "Prince of the Lilies," clothed in only a loincloth, with long, elaborately curled black hair, necklaces and decorative armlets, wearing a crown or hat topped by stylized lilies and three long peacock feathers sweeping back from its peak, and leading a creature whose identity has been guessed at (not enough remaining of the original for more than that) as being a griffin or perhaps a sphinx.
 
Returning to Iraklion, I felt exhausted and low, and went directly to my hotel. Not wanting to be alone in my room quite yet, I ordered a bottle of beer from the bartender at the bar in the rear of the lobby and sat at one of the little tables to drink it. I felt worse and worse as time went on, without any reason I could discover for feeling that way. It was Thursday, and my return reservation was for Sunday, but the thought of spending that many days on this island filled me with dread and repugnance for which I could find absolutely no basis in reality!
 
Finishing my beer, I went up in the lift to my little room on the roof, and discovered an electric heater attached to the wall which I had not recognized because it was covered with a cloth bag. I was able to uncover it, plug it in and turn it on, after fiddling with it for a while. Somehow, it helped to have this source of warmth in palpable form emanating in my direction, even though I was not particularly cold. It was a grey day, however, and the coils of the heater glowed bright orange, and this may have had something to do with the comfort I felt in its presence. I decided to finish reading Fury on Earth to take my mind off the mood I was experiencing. I don't even remember whether or not I ate supper. Probably I did, but I am darned if I can remember either what or where. What I do remember is finishing my book and going to sleep quite early. My dreams were heavy and oppressive.
 
The next morning was sunny. After breakfast, served in the first floor dining room - bread, butter, jelly, coffee and milk, none of it very good - I packed my bags and walked right over to the Olympic Airlines reservations office in the central square and changed my ticket from Sunday to 9:10 P.M. that very evening! My feeling was almost one of panic, not in regard to the daytime, but to the idea of staying over another night. I asked if there were any place I could leave my bags, and the desk clerk pointed to the corner of the waiting room. Since other people were doing the same thing, it seemed safe enough, so I stacked them right in the corner. I felt better after doing this, and headed immediately for the Iraklion Museum to see the artifacts which had been removed from the palace. This is a splendid museum which includes hundreds of objects chronologically arranged and well displayed from the entire ancient period of the history of Crete and the findings from many sites, not just the one at Knossos.
 
I spent well over an hour there, gazing in wonder, taking pictures of these magnificent artifacts from this extraordinary culture of so long ago. There was gold in profusion - sword hilts, necklaces, figurines - much ivory, faience, crystal - cases full of the clay seals imprinted with the scripts called "Linear A" and "Linear B," both apparently connected with an extensive business of some kind necessitating the importation of huge quantities of material from abroad, cases of miniature seals elaborately carved with exquisite tiny scenes, pottery, votive statuary in both clay and bronze, rooms full of the bathtub-shaped coffins as well as chests with lids, pithoi, an incredible wealth and profusion of expressive and beautiful art objects, all portraying life or celebrating the religion of the Snake Goddess, the bull and the labrys, of which there were innumerable examples, taken from all over Crete, not just from this one site.
 
 
Among the frescos were depictions of exotic birds, gay flowers and other plants, monkeys, griffins, both in fresco and relief, bulls everywhere, magnificent red or black beasts with long, pointed horns, some gilded - everywhere a wealth of colorful decoration depicting or implying a culture of tremendous gaiety and sophistication.
 
I had lunch in the little square, sitting in the sun at one of the open-air tables set out by the restaurants which lined it. My half bottle of retsina was crude and strong compared with others I had had, but drinking it in the little square was pleasant, and the sun was warm. I did not feel so oppressed, now that I knew I would be leaving soon. After lunch, I decided to try to find a replica of the little faience "Snake Goddess" with the staring eyes which had come from the crypt of the "temple depositories." I finally found one I could afford, a tiny bronze one about two inches high, as well as a tiny brass "owl of Athena" with large blue glass eyes.
 
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By this time, I was beginning to feel anxious about my plane, since I remembered only too well what throngs of people there were at the Olympic Airlines desks. It was only three-thirty or so, and the bus didn't leave till six, but I really had nothing else I wanted to do, so I went back to the waiting room and took a seat on the bench near my bags and got out a book to read.
 
At this point, I was operating on a survival level, as it were, simply "on hold" until the bus should come, and very likely to continue that way until I got back to Athens. I had already decided to try to cancel the four-day tour and move up my departure date from Greece to Sunday or Monday, to call a halt to the entire trip. All I wanted was to be back home.
A short peasant woman dressed in a black skirt, black winter jacket zipped up the front, a black kerchief on her head, black stockings and blue jogging shoes sat beside me on the bench and began rustling paper parcels inside her cloth tote bag, apparently in search of something. Her face, emerging from the kerchief, was brown and wrinkled like a shriveled apple. Her age might have been fifty. She stood up, stooped over and fumbled in her carryall bag, which was set against the wall. Suddenly, she turned to me, holding out a handful of small yellow raisins and peering at me shrewdly. I accepted them with thanks and a smile. We sat there chewing raisins, occasionally spitting out a tiny stem or removing it before eating the raisin. I continued to read my book, but was aware of her presence.
 
The bus came, and we all got on. I felt no regret as it lumbered its way out of the city and headed toward the airport. The little peasant woman sat just in front of me. We got off together and lugged our bags inside. She didn't seem to know any more about the airport than I did, and it felt comforting to have her near me, since she spoke Greek and I did not. She had no inhibitions about asking people around her for information about how to get our boarding passes. It appeared they would not be issued for some time, since it was not even six-thirty yet, and the plane didn't leave until 9:10. We found the waiting room and, after some juggling of seats, managed to find seats together. She offered me another handful of the tiny yellow raisins. I took them and thanked her. We began a conversation of sorts. Her name was Ilena, if my memory serves. It seemed that she lived in Athens, but was a Cretan by birth, had grown up on the island, where she still had family whom she visited from time to time. She had married another Cretan and had moved away from the island. They had lived in many places, wherever they could find work. Her husband did not seem to me to be still living, although I did not ask directly. She had worked in Germany for some years, and so, spoke a rudimentary kind of German. When she remembered to speak it, we conversed, she in her primitive German, I in mine. She showed me snapshots of her family, now grown. The time passed slowly. Realizing I was feeling hungry, I bought a can of Sprite and a rather stale, cellophane-wrapped bun with cheese in it at a nearby food stand. It seemed to be all they sold. Ilena did the same.
 
I gradually became aware of the fact that one reason the airport seemed so crowded with people was that most of them seemed to be on the move all the time. This fact only dawned on me slowly, as I began to realize I was seeing the same faces again and again, all walking purposefully across the line of my vision, then appearing again walking equally purposefully in the opposite direction. This happened over and over, until I felt I was looking at some sort of drama or dance being enacted by a cast of almost a hundred people. I began to be able to identify some of the interrelationships. Quite a few of the men seemed to be acquainted with each other, and tended to stand or walk in groups, talking animatedly. Many, perhaps most of them held an object in one hand which they swung or fingered. Some held "worry beads," about which Kate had told me, and seemed each to have his characteristic way of manipulating them over and over. But some swung rings of keys or held some other objects which now appeared to me to be substitutes for the beads. Little girls and boys were very apt to be with their fathers, and the mothers were either absent or sitting down. I could not always tell. But the men and children seemed to be in constant motion, either walking about or manipulating their talismans as they conversed with each other, or both.
 
Unfortunately, from my point of view, one of the favorite anxiety-reducers seemed to be cigarettes. Almost every person in the airport seemed to be smoking, and the air was thick with the stink and oppression of it. Both Ilena and I reacted badly to the atmosphere, she by wheezing, I by coughing. She poured cologne onto a handkerchief and breathed into it for a bit, then offered me some, urging me to try it. I declined with thanks, knowing that it would not help but might make things worse, since I seem not to cope well with many perfumes.
 
In spite of all this, however, I realized I was deriving a great deal of comfort and relief from oppression from the simple act of sharing the experience with Ilena, and felt even closer to her because of the shared discomfort. We watched each other's bags from time to time when one of us needed to get up. She explained to me where the toilets were. I told her where the check-in counters were. The time passed, with occasional brief verbal exchanges, but mostly, just a wordless communion which was very satisfying, to her as well as to me, I believe.
 
The cast of characters changed as one plane after another came in and then took off again, but the drama stayed the same. Then finally, it was our turn to check our bags and receive our boarding passes. Greeks have no idea whatsoever of the concept of standing in line. The two rival approaches to being waited on seemed to be either to bulldoze right through the middle of the general crush of bodies or else to make an end run and sneak in front from one side or another. But in spite of it all, or perhaps by engaging in the same practices as everyone else, we both managed to get our bags checked and were issued our passes. Now came a great rush to be first in line at the glass doors outside of which the plane was to arrive. Ilena became more and more vocal as her anxiety mounted, and repeatedly addressed the people around her in voluble Greek, sometimes in question form, more often in a kind of running commentary. We became separated for a while, and had to struggle to get back close to each other again. People standing around us were evidently becoming curious as to the nature of the connection between us, and whenever Ilena would launch forth on one of her editorials, directed at no one in particular, they would glance at me. I began feeling protective of her, and stayed as close as I could.
 
The attendant opened the doors. Bursting forth through them in a great crush, we crossed the apron together, got on the plane and found adjoining seats. At this point I am not really sure whether either of us was more of a caretaker than the other. It felt mutual, as though we were long-time sisters. Ilena had a hard time coping with takeoff. I smiled at her reassuringly, and it seemed to help. The flight back to Athens was uneventful. Getting off the plane in the floodlit parking area, she turned to me to say goodbye. We hugged and kissed each other, then she went one way and I the other. I don't know where she was going, but it was evidently the time for her to leave, and she did. The whole experience had had a kind of mythological dimension to it, and the parting had the same feeling tone, which really had nothing to do with logic or probability. It just was.
 
Throngs of people left the terminal and walked across the street to where a long line of taxis was waiting, moving forward slowly toward the head of the line to pick up passengers. The one I got was empty when I boarded it, but the driver evidently wanted to take more than one person. A young American couple got in. They were headed for a hotel near the railroad station, whereas I wanted to go northeast. The trip to their hotel was lengthy, and I began to worry about how much the driver was going to charge me. When I tried to find out whether he expected me to pay for the part of the trip which had been necessitated by dropping off the young couple, which had made the circuit far longer than it would otherwise have been, he turned off the meter and offered to take me free. I protested that all I wanted was not to be overcharged. He put a hand on my knee, and it became clear to me that he had a proposition in mind. I became annoyed and told him to take me home or else put me down and let me find another cab. He in turn grew angry, and the trip became longer and longer. It was finally evident that he had no idea where I was going, in spite of my having shown him the place on my map of the city, several times. He didn't seem to be able to read a map. It was clear he needed a landmark with which he was familiar. I told him to leave me at the Hilton, which I knew was only a few blocks from Kate's apartment building. After a few minutes, he pulled up in front of the Hilton, stopped, pulled my bags from the back, dumped them unceremoniously on the ground and brusquely demanded a hefty fee. I paid it grimly and without comment in order to be quits with him.
 
It took me half an hour more to find the way to Kate's apartment. Not knowing in which direction the hotel faced, I chose what seemed the right one and walked for a while, cursing the taxidriver at every step. It gradually became evident to me that I was wrong. After a few more attempts to change my inner orientation, which felt fixated in a certain pattern I could not seem to correct, things gradually began to fall into place and I was able to put my surroundings back into a cognitive map I could follow. It was with a great sense of relief that I unlocked the door of the apartment building, went inside and up the stairs, and let myself into the apartment. It was dark, and I could vaguely see Kate's humped form under the covers of her bed. As quietly as I could, I used the bathroom, then went into my room, shutting the door softly, undressed and went to bed.
 
I woke abruptly sometime during the night and sat bolt upright. I had had a shocking dream. It had happened so quickly that I was taken totally aback. I think I had been in the middle of some other dream, when suddenly this one had driven its way right through. That is not a description of an event I can document objectively, but it feels right. At any rate, the scene in this invading dream was of a row of infants on a kind of shelf, rather like newborns in a hospital, only without the basinettes. I appeared in the dream only as the point of view from which these babies were seen. Suddenly, from my right, out of the corner of the picture, as it were, came a great, thrusting serpent head! Wham! Jaws wide open, the snake lunged, seizing one of the babies in its jaws, almost at the same moment wrapping it in its coils. The babe was dead before one could draw breath! The python had performed its proper task of obtaining food, had done so both efficiently and humanely, and the whole act was complete in the twinkling of an eye. I am still struggling to understand the meaning of this dream. It has overtones which bring in themes from so many sources and times, both historical and personal, that to me, it can only represent the intrusion of an incredibly powerful archetype demanding attention from me, here and now. I believe I have my work cut out for me!
 
At the time, however, the feeling tone of the dream functioned mainly as a reinforcer of the mood in which I had left Crete and strengthened my decision to cut my visit short and go home as soon as possible.
 
When I woke up again, Kate was already in the kitchen cooking breakfast. Her usual meal, which she shared with me, was a very good hot cereal, cooked in a double boiler, a hard-boiled egg, cooked very slowly so as not to toughen the white or the yolk, freshly filtered coffee, and an orange, tiny and sweet. I told her my decision to cancel the tour and leave for home early. She remained non-judgmental but warned me that it might not be possible. After breakfast, she made several phone calls, and, sure enough, I was committed to both arrangements. Somehow, now that I was "home," this fact seemed less important.
 
I spent the day - Saturday - catching up with the notation both of expenses and daily events in my little notebook which I had allowed to fall several days behind, and also began the writing of a more extensive account of the trip, starting with my departure from Newark Airport. I had not decided until now whether or not to do this, thinking doing so might somehow constitute a kind of exploitation of something sacred for my own private purposes - but now it seemed a necessary thing to do! I could not allow the rich and varied intensity of this trip to fade into a greyness of distance. It was my experience, and it was alive, like the Goddess Herself. I did not want it to die. Kate worked in her office.
 
We ate feta cheese, a sour, white, wet but crumbly cheese loved by all true Greeks, zweibach, fruit, and "Bambu," a Dutch hot drink a bit like Postum but made with acorns and figs in it as well as roasted cereals. Outside, echoing from the other side of the city we could hear a distant and continuing roar of male voices shouting in unison. The sound came in rhythmic pulses, closer for a while, gradually becoming fainter as they moved farther away. It went on for about four hours. Students were staging a huge protest march against the American presence in Greece.
 
I wrote my narrative. Kate worked in her office, making periodic phone calls or receiving them from Greek associates, while I marveled at her fluent Greek, punctuated by frequent "neh's" as she listened to the other end of each conversation. I finally called in to her and asked what "neh" meant. She said it meant "yes." I realized, thinking about it, that this response seems to be very Greek, as though it is important to reassure your respondent that you are "in sync" with him or her. At some point during the afternoon, we talked together, taking a break from solitary work. It was at this time that Kate showed me the book about Greek burial customs in a village, and that the conversation mentioned above about fire-walking and other Greek customs took place.
 
Kate cooked a very good supper, but I don't quite remember what we ate. I also can't remember whether Kate went out for the evening or not, but I think she did. I read myself to sleep fairly early. It was a good day, and helped a great deal to restore my sense of myself as an "on-going event," as an entity with a perspective toward life rather than simply an involuntary participant in it. Wordsworth's description of poetry as "passion or emotion recollected in tranquillity" (or something akin to that phrase) seems pertinent here.
 
Sunday was also a day of rest for me. Kate was out most of the day, and I spent it either writing my narrative, readingThe Color Purple from Kate's bookshelf, or dozing. I had lunch at the "Five Fs" again, and enjoyed it equally well. It was a lovely respite, and quite prepared me for tackling the four-day tour which was to start on the morrow.
 
Click here to read more about the nature and incidence of labyrinths, and here to read an essay about their possible role in our lives.

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