I am in the Fougaro Art space in Aria close to Nafplio, the one I told you about earlier. I came a couple of days ago and found that they have a library, a small quiet space full of books, some in English and open to the public. I came here today to work, hoping to focus and write this letter to you. I miss books. (no, I am not any closer to getting over giving away my books, 40 years of books. I still get fainting spells at the thought).
I want to tell you about the hike. Ola, thank you for encouraging me.
First came the sleepless nights starting from the night before I left Drepano to Antalya. It did not help that for some mysterious reason, I had acute heartburn every night or whatever that pain was because sometimes I thought what if it were my heart stopping? I took medicine for it every night, I consumed more heartburn medicine that week than I would in a month. Other than the hike, I do not know that my mind was occupied with anything special to cause this sleeplessness. I managed, nonetheless, to hike with bad sleep. I suppose it was all part of getting to know myself, my body.
I was nervous not knowing what the hike involved exactly. Was I going to be able to do it or not? I was also nervous about the group, taking time away from my time away from Amman to be with people from Amman. What if I could not be comfortable in myself with them?
Among a group of strangers, I was not as afraid as I sometimes felt stepping on the loose soil at the edge of a cliff or walking down a steep incline of dry dirt and moving stone. Control. I need to feel in control. I am afraid of things that I do not know, I explained to a fellow hiker who responded to my nervousness and was trying to help. He thought the unknown could be exciting. There were moments when I thought if you were there, I would have definitely become frozen like I sometimes did when we hiked together. I would have needed your heroism to help me through (or would have had to turn back). My mind one place and my body another. Or actually my body following a part of my mind which was not in touch with reality. Stuck at an elevation of 40 centimeter above ground did not constitute danger, at some level I knew that, but I could not convince the part of the brain that was somewhere else panicking. But on this hike, I was at my best so to speak, I could not or would not expose my phobia to this group, I would not burden them with having to “save” me, I was trying to impress them. I had a chance at a fresh start as a person who was not afraid of instability under her feet.
My new shoes performed well. I had to understand them first, in time I recognized the power of their grip ascending and descending. It also helped that the guide told me my shoes were made for this climb when I hesitated in front of rock. I trust a guide. Authority. Male? Shit.
The guide, a sweet beast, positioned me right after him to set the pace, he announced. He walked uphill slow and small, think of one step at a time, he said. And it worked. I could have walked for ever. I breathed and put a hiking-boot-clad foot forward. Breath. Step. breath. Step. going down the steep inclines, step with your heels first, he told me. Sometimes, I managed to trip over my own feet. I slipped back or forward a few times, my foot let go too soon or too slow. I marched on or up or down. I paid extra attention not to send any stones rolling towards he or she who walked behind me. I was mostly careful. Not carefree. Sometimes I would look up or far and my foot would land on the wrong side of a stone.
In essence this walk, of about 100 km along a segment of the Lykia Trail, was about staring at the ground just in front of my feet, listening to my breath, feeling my heart beat and following one step with another. Sweat. Ache. Thirst. Also the smell of wild sage and thyme, the buzz and annoying tickle of insects and the relish of a cool breeze. In my mind though, except for quick moments of panic, I was carefree. So much focus on the practical, technical, and simple strategy along with my breath and heartbeat, my mind did let go I suppose. I was with very little anxiety or worry.
Oh, I also learned that I do not care to arrive at the summit. I could do it and this one was considered a small summit only at 2366 meters.
This may have also been why I felt good generally. Emotionally. I liked the group and I liked myself within the group. Sure, parts of me will remain in the background, but other parts were center stage. I am sure each and everyone kept parts of him or herself away and shared some with us. Essentially, I felt at home in my self and body. I am thinking that it was easy being with the group because by virtue of mostly walking, mostly being in nature, it was a quiet event. I often feel nervous or uncomfortable because of noise. The guide, prompted by a question from the group, sometimes went on too long and too loud, but he had so much to share with us and he did it so generously that I loved him for it.
Sometimes I felt my lower back, a pain settling there, it was also (alongside my dull continuous headache) a suggestion that my period was on its way although early. My knees were present, especially my left one, especially to the right side of it, calling my attention with a variety of pain(s). My left ankle too, on the inside, the pain present now for a few weeks continued but managed to remain polite. And when my period did come, I was tired. On the last day, I did take a moment to thank my body. A sort of ritual inspired by your ways. I offered my body parts gratitude and love. And it was sincere and joyous. I felt happy. I think I would have liked the walk to continue. What is that? What is the meaning of my desire to continue walking?
My desire for being in nature, on a route, something with a plan but minimally designed. The passage of time measured by steps and heartbeats. With fellow walkers, not too many, mostly quiet. Carrying water for one day and just a bit of energy in a snack. The sound of my breathing comes back to my ears, hearing it from within and from without. Physical. Muscle and bone. What is it? Occupied but doing nothing. There is nothing glorious with the end of the walk, for tomorrow the walk continues, nowhere to arrive to, no conclusion, no meaning.
The only person I see walking all the time is that lanky man we always see on the streets around Drepano. Seemingly an outsider, a strange one, his hair long, smoking rolled cigarettes, sometimes a bottle in his hand, sometimes crouching taking a break under a tree. Something to think about.
What have I written Ola? I cannot seem to be able to read it back. I hope this letter brings you a gift from my trip.
I will be brief. You keep saying that we now live very different lives and we both laugh when you say that, but we do not. You are counting your breaths and steps, and every morning I send you how many hours I slept. Every morning I check on how many hours my father slept and how much H2O did he drink, and how many times he smiled a day. We are both counting. So far, I have counted at least 8 different types of insects at the farm, the one that keeps me company is the blue mint beetle, right now I have four on top of me.
From the outside it seems that you and I are living differently, but trust me we are not. We are both living very deeply, the tools and ways are different, the circumstances are different and of course the scenery but we are both seeking the same thing, to learn who we are.
With your walks you extend our lives, so please never stop. You have to keep walking.
هذه المدوّنة هي جزء من المراسلات بين علا وديالا توثّق مغامرات أولى إي تشاو
This blog post is part of the correspondence between Ola and Diala documenting The Adventure of Ola y Chau