Walking along the Venetian harbour, I felt at ease. The sun cast its radiant glow over the blue water lapping against the yellow sandstone walls. The picturesque walk was complemented by a lone man selling sea sponges on a boat bobbing gently in the water. From early morning to late afternoon, he would be ply his trade; despite rarely ever selling anything he was blessed with a radiant smile full of joy. I was drawn to this man with whom I struck up a friendship, talking to him every day. Harris as he was known was a sailor, having travelled extensively around the Greek islands, and settled long ago on Crete where he had raised his family. He had seen times of prosperity and more recently adversity. I offered to pay Harris to take me around the Greek islands, knowing that he had difficulty making ends meet, however he answered, “My boat is in disrepair, nevertheless I would take you around for no money whatsoever”. One cold winter day he asked me if I wanted to have a drink of schnapps with him. Out of respect I said yes. I admired the heart of this man, even though schnapps was not to my liking. Harris then proceeded to order a couple of drinks from the restaurant across the street from where his boat was moored alongside the harbour. I was deeply touched yet saddened, as Harris was willing in a moment of sheer hospitality to spend several days wages on a couple of drinks in order to please me. I remonstrated with him not to order any drinks, as I thought that he had the drinks within his boat. He asked “Why not, it’s fine! Are you worried about the money?”, as he noticed the concerned look on my face. After reassuring him that it was okay he finally relented. Suffering had merely tempered his beautiful heart, and in this man I sensed a deep sense of humility and serenity despite providing for his family in difficult times. How could one not love such a man? Never before had I experienced such hospitality amidst adversity. I told Harris “May God bless you, and you forever trust in Him ”. Harris responded with a sad smile of conviction. “And that’s the greatest gift that one can ever wish for in life”
The old town had numerous cobblestoned paths ascending towards cliff. As we walked along the summit I looked out towards the ocean, overwhelmed at the sheer simplistic beauty of how effortlessly the splendour of creation blended with the creativity of mankind. A white staircase ascending towards an abandoned windmill, simple yet striking to behold. It was as if time had stopped, reminding me of a bygone era uncomplicated yet timeless in its beauty.
The distant lapping of the water splashing against the wooden moorings of the archaic Venetian bay, mingled with the sound of seabirds. As I walked along the cobblestones, the sun cast its vibrant rays upon the distant horizon. Pausing, I looked into the distance, yearning to capture the magnificence of this sunrise. Amidst the silence I perceived the beauty of a moment in time, powerfully engraved within the depths of my soul.
The faint echo of my footsteps disappeared into the profound silence that manifested an aura of sanctity about the monastery. The buildings seemed archaic, yet the passing of centuries had merely enhanced their beauty. Decaying yet dignified, the monastery walls and church were marvellous to look upon in their simplistic beauty. As I stood looking upon an archaic facade, a monk with flowing black robes suddenly came up to me full of joy and smiling. He talked in such a beautiful melody, rich and resonant. I could not help but look upon his face in wonder. The thought crossed my mind “Is he slightly mad?”. After a few moments, looking upon the purity of his disposition, I felt ashamed of my thoughts and merely stood in silence. The monk radiated a childlike innocence and joy, yet his words were filled with wisdom and love as he gave me his blessing and wished me well upon my journey. I stood for a long time in silence, not wanting to leave, sensing that I was in the presence of someone special. It was with a heavy heart that I eventually walked away deep in thought. I often think of this unknown monk. The purity of his warm eyes and loving words have left me a lasting impression. A monk living a simplistic life dedicated to prayer and fasting yet somehow filled with profound peace and joy.
Looking up at the archaic wooden door of the monastery, I read with a sense of reverence the ancient Greek and Latin inscriptions chiselled into the archway. Eventually passing through the doorway I felt an immense sense of tranquility, as though I had stepped from modernity into a bygone era devoid of constant and superficial distractions. The monastery emanated serenity and an aura of reverence. Besides the rustling of leaves and the wind dancing amidst the treetops, I was all alone. As the sun hid behind the clouds I gazed upon the facade of the monastery. Forlorn, decaying and defiant in it’s timeless beauty, it captured my imagination. An inscription carved in the entranceway in ancient Greek read, “Let the love of Christ be the light of your life that guides you”. I stood in awe and silence. The words resonated within the depths of my soul and my heart stirred with sheer love for whom I loved most, Christ Jesus.
The morning air was fresh as I stepped out onto the street winding its way down to the harbour. The sound of my muffled footsteps disappeared amidst the gentle splashing of waves in the distance. As the first rays of sunrise cast its light upon the colourful facades I stopped by a beautiful sand stone wall with a bright red door. The passing of centuries had left their marks of decay, yet this only complemented the beauty of simplistic architectural and colourful themes blended naturally together.
The little winding side streets paved with blocks of stone wound gently through the quaint picturesque town. The street was lined by archaic buildings on either side, often decaying but truly beautiful to behold in their brilliant array of colours. I stopped by this gorgeous cafe, a green wooden door standing slightly ajar warmly welcomed the passerby. The aroma of traditional Mediterranean food mingled with the melodic sound of music beckoned one inside. Cautiously stepping inside, I glanced at the staff with their genuine warm smiles and open hearts ready to welcome a stranger with traditional Greek hospitality. Their warmth and generosity matched the beauty of the decor inside simple, elegant yet thoroughly authentic.
The soft sound of my muffled footsteps upon the stone courtyard, punctuated the stillness of the air. The monastery was silent, yet there was a profound beauty in such silence. I stood in awe surrounded by sweet solitude and serenity. Before me beautiful archaic facades of paved courtyards and roman arches, met my childlike gaze. Although well worn, their vibrant earthy colours filled me with wonder. I paused by a wooden door on the side of the monastery wall beneath a stairwell. A bell hung nearby, rung to call the monks to prayer and celebration of the divine liturgy. After long moments I pondered in awe recalling the psalmists words “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
The smell of burning wood permeated the cool winters morning. Besides the numerous cats relaxing in the sunshine, there was a strange but welcome stillness, so profound that all ones sense were enhanced. Passing the stone courtyard a flurry suddenly caught my eye, or was it merely an inner sense; looking towards the upper level of the monastery I caught the glimpse of a monks’ flowing black robes as he disappeared into the dormitory. I looked for a few more moments yearning to catch another rare glimpse of the unknown monk; turning around I walked a few steps and came across a staircase. Archaic and worn with the passage of time it was nevertheless beautiful to behold in its antiquity.
Looking yonder, admiring the brilliant forested green hills plunging into the valley below, wisps of smoke gently climbed heavenwards from chimneys and ice capped tiled roofs. The smell of wood fires permeated the air, while the singing of birds heralded sunrise. The serene picturesque town slept quietly on this cold winter day, nestled in the loving embrace of the valley. As the fog began to lift, the tall church spire towering over the brightly coloured buildings complemented beautifully the surrounding landscape. I turned around and continued climbing. Approaching the wooded hilltop at the footsteps of the Black Forest I paused to rest, admiring the beauty of my surrounds; suddenly, a scurrying sound from above, disturbed my reverie. Scanning the tall beech trees, I discovered to my delight a red squirrel with long tufted ears and bushy tail leaping nimbly from tree to tree. I paused for a long time deep in thought, smiling. My only companions, the morning song of birds and a proud acrobatic red squirrel. It truly was a beautiful and peaceful day.