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 his boat alongside the quay. 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 heart, and in this man I sensed a deep sense of humility and serenity despite providing for his family in difficult times. Never before had I experienced such hospitality amidst suffering. I told Harris “May God bless you and always be with you”. Harris responded with a sad smile of conviction. “And that’s the greatest gift that one can ever wish for in life”
The climb down the sheer cliff face was arduous; high steps hewn out of solid rock wound their way down to the cave house overlooking the caldera. A beautiful view overlooking the brilliant blue of the aegean immediately transfixed me in a state of reverie. Looking back from our track I paused in a moment of profound awe. “The simplistic beauty of the white washed stone walls, contrasted against the beautiful blue domed churches were amazing to behold”. I was immediately transported back to a time far gone, yet mesmerising in its simplistic beauty.
Passing down a narrow cobblestone street I suddenly veered left towards the ocean, winding my way down a narrow staircase. The thought of exploring the unknown stirred my heart with childlike enthusiasm. Looking back from whence I came, I looked upon a windmill. Located on the cliff face overlooking the ocean, its white washed walls manifested a simplistic beauty contrasted against the blue sky. The wind swept clouds formed a beautiful mosaic adorning heaven itself. A lone figure perched atop a cliff face, I felt a sense of profound peace in that moment of solitude.
The climb up the steep and winding path was strenuous. Pausing briefly I surveyed the castle away in the distance, magnificently positioned in an elevated and defensible vantage point, reached only by a narrow and difficult route. “The king who once owned this castle chose his location wisely” I thought to myself. I paused for long moments surveyed the surroundings. Suddenly, I was plunged back centuries into the tales of my childhood. Tales of noble knights on heroic quests and beautiful maidens brought back childhood memories. I smiled to myself, a young boy’s dreams had suddenly come to life. Narrow cobblestone streets were surrounded on either side by old stone buildings. Beautiful coloured bouquets of flowers ordaining balconies, providing a striking contrast to the grey stone buildings complete with red tiled roofs. Cast iron lanterns and street signs, archaic cobblestone pathways and towering stone ramparts manifested a truly medieval experience.
Ascending the steep and difficult path winding path, I finally reached the opposite cliff face after having passed through spectacular forests, bushland and a river which wound its way through a tapestry of grassland, disappearing into the horizon. Continuing along the cliff, the route eventually plateaued and evolved into coastal headland. I stopped in awe at the majestic scenery. Windswept plains eventually gave way to steep cliffs, comprising colossal stacks and boulders of weathered red granite, that plunged into the vast ocean depths. Massive waves fanned out across the ocean, as far as the eye could see, while the chorus of winds heralded the gathering of storm clouds, wove a majestic tapestry magnificent to behold. I looked out past the forested cliff to the seacoast and vast mysterious ocean. Standing upright, the wind buffeted me wildly wrapping around my body in a rough embrace. I cried out in exhilaration, rejoicing at the beauty of Creation, outstanding beautiful and awesome to behold. I thought “It’s great to be alive”.
Solemnly approaching the cliff edge, I was acutely aware of my insignificance, a lone figure surrounded by the vast expanse of Heaven. The silence had a depth that merely enhanced the tapestry of profound beauty that lay before me. Wisps of wind gently caressed my face as I gazed yonder awestruck. There are times when mere words are unable to reflect reality. Somehow Dostoyevsky’s words “Beauty will save the World”, reflecting a loving God as manifested in the majestic beauty and gift of Creation resonated with vivid clarity. All that is required is purity of heart, born of humility and love for such words to penetrate the depths of ones heart and soul
Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. (John 8:12)
There are brief but cherished moments in ones life whereby one rejoices in the sheer beauty of Creation. Precious moments, pure in essence, filled with awesome power, that manifest a loving God, allowing the psalmist’s words to penetrate the depths of ones soul.
The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)