I think that life itself is the mystery...
We don’t need to make up mysteries out of life, becoming in the process
yet one more step removed from the reality.
Everyone’s life is mysterious, unknowable, tantalizing in the extreme.
I find myself appreciating the truth of that more and more in recent years.
People watching on a deeper level, I guess.
I still remember that, as a young person, I could not relate to, much less appreciate,
any one who differed from my sense of the norm.
Growing up in LA in the bright California sun, I naturally assumed that everyone
in the world was tan, slim, blonde, and fair-eyed.
That picture changed considerably when our family relocated to the midwest.
I felt shock and distaste for the new world I found myself in.
Who were these rough, odd, ethnic people, I thought.
Looking back, I am grateful for that first shock...and for the many that inevitably
and necessarily followed. I wrestled many times throughsubsequent years to simply reconcile myself to this world with all its diversity and clamor, as well as its utter disregard for my opinions of how things 'SHOULD BE.'
I was not like so many who seem to be able to settle down and engage life with grace
and acceptance. My own approach and landing was bumpy and awkward, filled with misgivings and judgments.
And yet I had to forgive myself and move forward… I did the best I could at the time.
The great joy I have in life now is that when I see a face…any face. my first instinct
is becoming one of love, interest and appreciation...even a kind of recognition.
I see sister… brother… fellow soul.
There is a growing bond of sympathy and a bit of gentle humor for each person’s history, be it one of struggle or of ease.
Delight in the sheer mystery of each soul’s journey and the deep connection we share.
Learning… and learning...
Seeing now the child within the man, the man inside the woman, the wolf within
the grandmother, the soul within the body, the eyes of God within all eyes.
I respectfully dedicate this story to all my patient teachers in this life.
The Seen, the Unseen, the Noble, the Ordinary, the Encouragers without number.
As you will find in the stories that follow, some of these Sacred Teachers came
in the guise of rascals, cabbies, carpet sellers and even a juvenile delinquent.
One of my favorites is a guy who wrote a book about beets.
To those who also took up the call to write for the ones that follow...
those dispellers of Grace to us all daily.
If you go back far enough, we all come from the same cave….
It was the night of the full moon in October when I first arrived in this strange land.
It was a virtual moonscape lit by it’s own bright moon.
This eerily familiar landscape. I was in Cappadocia … that region of Turkey that is
unlike any other place on earth.
The night sky was filled with stars and not a little magic.
The tourist van held just 3 of us that night...and that was probably for the best.
Our driver was taking us on a madcap race through the rugged terrain.
We three were as storm-tossed as voyagers on a north Atlantic fishing dory
as Ahmet sped up and down the dusty rocky roads of this ancient place.
We were hurtled from one end of the bus to the other as we made endless loops through the mountains. Speeding up, braking abruptly, threatening to go airborne at every rise, jolting us around with what I suspect was a wicked glee.
I’ve had run-ins with his type before.
A New York cabbie who bounced me off the roof of his cab several times with a look of pure innocence when I asked him to hurry it up a little.
Then there was the fatherly old railroad worker who caught a friend and I stealing onto his train when we were hoboing. Rather than holding us till the cops arrived to arrest us for trespassing, he offered to pick the locks of a brand new 1969 Chevy high up on the third tier of a rail car bound for California. He opened the doors, even lowered the seats into sleeping position for us and invited us to climb in.
Not only would we be safe and out of sight, but the view would be just great, he said.
It was a diabolical little ruse in the end.
We spent the entire bone-racking night banging off the ceilings of those cars and by very early morning vowed never to hop a freight train again…no doubt his intended lesson.
I guess one has to invent ways to keep things interesting on the job…
Big bump! Darned camel jockey! Ouch!
It would take 2, maybe 3 days to recover from this body-slamming leg of the trip.
Still in all, if details like these didn’t leak to the friends I’d left behind, I was having
quite the adventure (these things are always much more romantic when left to the imagination)
The poor fellow at the rear of our coach was having an even more harrowing trip after spending his evening at the pub while waiting to embark on this wretched ride.
He was still learning the Rules of Travel….
Never trust yourself to the tender mercies of strangers in strange lands while inebriated.
Though most Rules could be trifled with a bit, his choice of time and circumstance
was unfortunate. Add to that the taciturn edicts against alcohol in a Muslim country
and you could be assured, at the very least, of little mercy and more likely a helping hand in delivering a dose of Allah’s retribution.
Beneath the obvious experience of being monotonously and relentlessly tumbled about the mini-bus, if you were paying attention, you could feel a more subtle disorientation occurring. A sense of your own personal moorings loosening... a hint of the surreal.
As we careened toward our destination, the landscape became even more exotic
and alien It was strange that a land so bleak and uninhabitable as this felt so alive
with the unseen. I was literally rocked with the sense of phantasms streaking by, crashing aimlessly around and even through me.
Animal, human, subhuman… too fast, too full...too many impressions crowding
the space. I found myself unable to resist the impressions as I normally might.
Nor could I sort them out.
It stirred a sense of alertness in me and I turned my attention from the demands
of the road to the instincts deep within. Radar on, searching inside for any recollection that might help me grasp what was happening.
I felt that I was being watched. I did a quick check of the passengers and driver,
but each was intent on their business.
There seemed to be eyes all around me. I felt as though my arrival was anticipated… expected in some way.
Well, and so it might be.
I’d thought of little else in the months preceding the trip.
I had just turned 50 that year… and that was the year I chose to finally make good
on a promise I'd made to myself long ago...as a child, in fact...to find this place.
I was going to travel around the world...and I was going to do it in my own unique style. As I pondered my options, certain desires became clear…
I separated myself from what was culturally expected, the norm, the overdone and the underdone. It was, after all, my trip.
What did I really hope to accomplish? Why was I making the trip at 50? Who did I hope to meet? What would I do with the experience? What would Life say to me?
As I meditated about where to go, a single image rose in my mind.
Craggy spires, strange tufts of rock, bleak, weather-hewn, sand-colored, unlikely, bizarre, incredible rock formations.
The name emerged with it… Cappadocia.
The place had beckoned to me once before….many years ago.
I had seen just a single small photo of the place in a geography book when I was 8 or 9 years old. That single image had burrowed its way into my very being.
I remembered being spellbound by the fairy tale quality of the landscape,
sitting rapt before the old photo for hours and days.
It stirred my child’s heart deeply. I had promised myself then that I would see it for myself one day. If I went nowhere else, I must go THERE.
That image had lain dormant and forgotten for all that time.
How incredible then that, moments after I closed my eyes and sought direction,
that image floated before my minds eye as if it were yesterday.
Ahhh… It was settled……quietly, easily.
I hunched over my beat-up atlas of the world.
Hmmm…. There was some serious editing to be done here.
Oh for another lifetime!
Every other destination simply slipped into position around it.
Wales, Amsterdam, Prague, India, Thailand, Bali.
Turkey was the centerpiece of the trip encircled by all the other
exciting destinations. The jewel in the crown...
I reminisced as I searched through the atlas...
As a child, I’d had one of those geography assignments that called for a paper to be written …a snapshot of one country riddled with things like total square miles, population, bounded by’s, etc.
Yet, to my eager mind, NONE of the really great colorful details that a real world citizen would relish knowing were called for!
Like, for instance, that the chief source of income of the tiny nation of Andorra was smuggling. Or that Egypt Road was to be found on Cape Breton Island.. Or that Tibetan women had several husbands and that the Doukhobor sect of Manitoba worshipped in the nude.
What a world! And of course, there were worlds within worlds to be discovered.
There were few books on our shelves growing up and I tore into them hungrily.
I was totally indiscriminating....write it and I would read it.
It was an uneven collection to say the least, but I gleaned all that I could from it.
Mom, who’d taught me to read at about 3 years old, never dreamed that I would be rifling through the stacks reading well ahead of, well…any normal child!
Thus it was with some alarm that she found me reading the secret memoirs of a woman living in an insane asylum at the tender age of 6. When that bit of reading material came to light, my parents sat me down for a talk. They were understandably alarmed.
We discussed the book at length. I managed to convince them…well, one of them anyway (that was Mom) that I could handle such material. What I didn’t tell them was that I really needed that information.
My first incursion into this life left me fairly certain that I’d landed in just such a place...
I needed all the help I could get...
Nevertheless, I think that singular story may have bent me in the direction of the arcane, the exotic, and the forbidden. All I knew was that there was lots to be uncovered in this world and that I would never suffer from a lack of things to be fascinated by.
It was obvious I had to get busy!
So, when the aforementioned geography assignment was issued, I tried for days
to decide on a country to concentrate on.
I agonized over the list of nations, large and small, obscure and renowned.
I may as well have entered the portal of an M.C. Escher illustration.
Each new country was more compelling than the last.
I wandered through every figurative doorway I could find and finally, I gave up
and chose them all.
And then, for curiosity’s sake, I would draw special attention to all the tiny nations
that few had heard of, such as the aforementioned smuggler’s haven, Liechtenstein
and the like.
I hurled myself into the project with characteristic determination.
I abandoned every friend, every childish pursuit while my work was unfinished.
Somehow, at the outset, I hadn’t fully realized how many countries there were
in the whole wide world. I was excited, yet terrified as the list grew longer
and my deadline loomed.
I buried myself in encyclopedias and fairly attacked the mountains of information
they contained, always trying to move beyond the dull facts and ferret out
the outlandish, the peculiar, the mysterious.
The assignment was obviously spiraling out of control, but it seemed, I had no choice but to conjure up enough energy to call it done.
To add to the mayhem, there was the additional component of making a topographical map of your country. (We made them out of salt, flour and warm water and painted them with food coloring)
I was figuring out how to recreate the world within the confines of my mom’s oven.
The world was flat in those days...
I know, because it took four of us to carry it in to the school.
I was not to be entrusted with that part in my exhausted state, but I remember mother-henning my creation to it’s final resting place.
I’m sure the last days were a blur and caused my mother no small concern.
Unbeknownst to us, it was a harbinger of things to come…
I had experienced my first taste of the agony and exhilaration of attempting the ridiculous. The die was cast.
Meanwhile, Ahmet shifted the gears of the van as we approached
the first inhabited place for many miles. Lights, civilization, food! Thank goodness!
We pulled up to a rather nice hotel and our now sober fellow and his female companion disembarked, glad to feel solid ground beneath them after their rugged voyage.
As they were whisked into the sanctuary of the modern foyer, I felt a moment of wistful longing. Why hadn’t I chosen something like that? Why was I forever going off the beaten track?
I had opted for spontaneity….none of the commonplace for me!
A reliable, familiar hotel was for the unimaginative.
I would press on through the night to reach a cave hostel with Ahmet’s help.
Perhaps I should try conforming some time….
Ahmet finally delivered me to the sleepy village of Goreme where I had chosen to stay. We found the cave pension off the main road and climbed the steps to the unimposing entrance. After a few moments, there appeared a boy of about 13.
We were beckoned inside.
While Ahmet sat on a cushion and took tea with the inn’s owner, Ozan,
I was led up winding stone stairs by the young boy holding an oil lamp to light the way. He opened the rough wooden door to my rooms and shyly held out the key to me.
Then he bounded down the stairs with a furtive glance over his shoulder.
I smiled to myself and dropped my shoulder bag on the bed, happy to be here.
The moonlit night and the surreal landscape careening by made me feel as if I were
in a dream. Staying in this ancient cave made me somehow part of the dream.
The rooms were simple…..whitewashed walls of hand hewn stone.
Wooden doors made by local craftsmen. Woven wool blankets reminiscent of Navajo rugs on the bed. My feet sank into old wool carpets on wide wood plank floors.
Simple sparse furnishings. Perfect.
I no longer envied the couple in the 3 star hotel.
The rest would wait for tomorrow…. For now I stood on the balcony and gazed at the brilliant moon in the wide sky and the incredible mountainous terrain it illuminated. Craggy spires studded with stars The intensity and nearness of the elements stirred my soul. Time dissolves here, I thought.
How carelessly we arrive at Life’s appointments…
She slept, if sleep was the word for it, slipping into a state between slumber and trance.
In one moment she hoped that the decision to come here was not a complete flight
of fancy. It seemed to her, rather, that some instinct brought her here...instinct shared with the birds and animals….a homing instinct that leads us to the next experience
in life. And even with all our fumbling, it seems unerring in it’s direction.
She had to admit to a feeling of anticipation that carried a sense of familiarity,
tinged around the edges with a sense of challenge...even danger.
Though she had arrived only an hour before, the momentum of her journey
seemed to have vanished. She had arrived…this was it...the final destination.
A faint memory of a similar sensation was aroused.
She had felt this way once before, but where….when…?
The first pink rays of dawn stole into her room. She opened her eyes for the first time taking in her surroundings in the light of day. She could hardly believe she was here!
She was surprisingly comfortable in this place….as though she could belong.
She stretched, enjoying the sensation of peace and tranquility.
Moments later, the peace was interrupted by the squawking of loudspeakers.
It sounded at first like an old radio sputtering to life….volume set too loud,
station crackling, not quite clear.
She didn’t remember seeing a radio, much less a TV in her room.
As the volume rose, filling the air with its insistent cry, she realized that the sound
was coming from outside...in the village.
When the terse reading of Arabic was followed by the haunting wail of a male voice,
she urealized that it was the morning call to prayer.
She lay back and listened to its hauntingly beautiful melody, relishing the foreignness
of the place..
She drew satisfaction from the fact that no one knew she was here.
She had suspended all ties prior to embarking on this trip, sensing the need for absolute freedom in order to grow. It had been time to re-invent her life once more…
Time to disengage...gently, where possible; more bluntly, when necessary.
Disentangling from the earlier fabric of her life- friends, family, routine, profession
and possessions...all laid aside.
It was somehow necessary to arrive unencumbered.
For what reason had she risked the loss of friends, lifestyle, comforts and familiarity?
It wasn’t that she was unhappy with any of it. In fact, that was hardly the case.
Her venturing had been born out of a growing dissatisfaction that was at first, hard to define.
Somehow it had been necessary to relinquish virtually everything and go off in search
of the Ineffable.
Even her sense of self lay in the balance.
What more are these appurtenances of life like house, partner and profession
than an attempt to define and realize ourselves and our purpose?
Those earlier manifestations had begun to fade now.
At 50, the quest becomes more internal.
She had been willing.
What she sensed on her arrival here was more intense than she had anticipated.
She was beginning to experience a complete dissolution, a rapid collapse of the self
she would have once described.
It felt as if her familiar self had been dismantled in the night.
She felt for her old bearings but they seemed mere illusions now in this place.
Like arriving in the next life, taking nothing forward of possessions, reputation...
history weighed quickly in the balance and found wanting.
Where to go from here?
She resisted the quiet flashes of knowing and hurriedly made the first plans for the day.
Organize…organize… She told herself that she was merely a tourist and that she would be gone soon. Things to do…schedules to keep.
Stepping out into the warm morning air, a feeling of unexpected joy rising from deep within mingled with nervous anticipation.
Again, the feeling was somehow familiar, but beyond her reach for the moment.
The air here was so clean, dry like the high desert. It felt right to her.
The sun was rising clear and bright, dispersing morning shadows.
The balcony held earthenware pots of bougainvilleas and coral colored geraniums. Looking up, she had her first real look at this amazing landscape….the famed fairy chimneys of Cappadocia.
Cappadocia is a land, which seems to be a fantasy.
Soft conical mountain spires, buff colored, tinged in pink in the early light.
Many of them appeared to be inhabited.
Incredible, enchanting, magical. Strange as a moonscape.
She climbed the hewn steps to the rooftop terrace overlooking one of the most spectacular vistas she’d ever seen.
Settling into a chair, she wondered what had brought her here...
There was a sense of fate. She felt it in the pit of her stomach.
The young boy from the evening before suddenly appeared,
smiling and bearing breakfast.
An array of olives, apricots, homemade cheese, soft-boiled eggs and a warm crusty loaf of bread with butter.
Simply beautiful...eating open air...her own private terrace.
After her morning reverie, it was time to venture out and survey this new world.
She could see from the terrace that the village was just right for walking.
Off to explore for the day, it hardly mattered which direction she took.
As she opened the large wooden gate and stepped onto the cobblestone walkway,
the smell of fresh baked bread wafted through the village.
A donkey cart crossed her path. A young man led a camel down the dusty street.
It was a biblical scene in a modern world. She had definitely come to the right place...
She paused for a moment...left or right?
A little inclination to turn left...
Left it was, then.
In her anticipation, she failed to notice the quickening that was overtaking her.
A slight disconnect, feet not quite touching the ground, a subtle struggle for control….
As her eyes adjusted to the scene before her, she felt a tugging inside her mind,
indistinct and nearly lost in the panoply of images before her.
She was drawn in the direction of a certain carpet shop….That was strange.
Carpet shops on every corner with shopkeepers eager to lure you inside were the bane
of travel in Turkey and she avoided them.
To the far left, under a lean-to, she saw several women in traditional dress sitting
at upright looms. Their backs to her, they sat on plump pillows on a terrace,
weaving the traditional kilim rugs.
If you are fortunate, a place will begin to yield its secrets to you.
Otherwise you are another blind wanderer...
A long ago scene flashed through her, briefly transporting her to a similar scene that had taken place decades before.
The flash of recognition was sharp, compressed, evocative.
A turning point at an earlier time in her life...
In her mind’s eye, she recalled the old Frenchwoman at her spinning wheel.
She remembered herself as a young woman watching, transfixed by the magic
of the wheel turning wool into yarn beneath her skilled fingers.
She came day after day to watch.
The old woman glanced up at her shyly on the 3rd day.
She beckoned, patting the bench beside her.
Startled, she responded without thinking.
The old woman placed the wool in her hands.
The connection made to the ancient Way...
The woman began to teach her.
She could not have guessed at the importance of that moment.
Shaking herself back to the present moment, bittersweet memories receding,
she mused. She was putting Fate to the challenge.
She noticed the woman on the right, a small woman sitting on a cushion
with her back to her.
She thought to herself "If she turns to me and pats the bench I will know..."
There are no accidents.
She tried to dismiss the idea assentimental musing, while another part of her
sensed the Hand of fate.
Her breath hushed, she stood still a moment, half-hidden in the doorway of the pension.
And then it happened...
The woman turned to look at her as though she’d been expecting her.
A shy, gentle smile played around her plain face, so much like the old Frenchwoman.. and then she patted the cushion beside her.
Maggie moved without thinking and took her place beside the woman.
Could it be, she thought?
But the wool was already in her hands- the teacher already guiding fingers that had half forgotten the ancient rhythms.
The weaving of the kilim was very different from the Celtic style she’d learned so many years before. But the feel of the wool remained the same.
Comforting, familiar, timeless...
The colors were earthy, the patterns foreign and yet somehow familiar...
All was done with the fingers. No pedals to shift the warp- only the soon-roughened fingertips moving swiftly, intelligently, design in mind.
The hours soon passed…her teacher observant as a hawk, though she continued her own work with hardly a pause. She realized her teacher could sense her mistakes at the first missed thread. She corrected Maggie firmly, pushing her to learn, to adapt.
Her full attention gained, she struggled to get it.
The three other women at the looms gossiped softly about the newcomer.
Was she married? Where was her husband? How many babies had she borne?
The strangers' green eyes, edged in kohl, captivated them.
They laughed at her mistakes in a kindly way.
We spoke a silent language sitting together, learning one another.
Maggie smiled inside, remembering her friend Reno...
He was the deaf man that helped her rehab the houseboat she called home.
Another sacred teacher. As unlikely as all the others...
She and Reno had spent long days tearing the Princess apart,
putting her back together and resurrecting her as the Skydancer.
Communication was dicey at the best of times.
If she but turned her back on him, he’d be taking the wrong wall down or some crazy thing. For the first few weeks, they’d scrapped like mad.
There were plenty of threats to end the arguments by pitching someone overboard.
But one day, she realized that they no longer argued out loud.
It was happening in their heads. She would think a thing and he would do it.
Or she would hear his wisecracks in her mind.
Their squabbles were as ardent as before, but they were all telepathic after awhile.
It just kind of happened...
Soon it was perfectly natural. She had observed that it was a little disconcerting when friends came to visit. They would turn their heads back and forth, watching in disbelief, knowing that a conversation was taking place, feeling it almost, but unable to grasp it.
It had been awhile since she’d found someone with whom she could do this.
She could feel the delicate tendrils of awareness interweaving with this woman.
She was strong, a bit funny…not as sad as the others.
Her age was hard to guess….she was that strange mixture of every age...and every place.
Hidden in a humble guise. Wasn’t it always this way?
‘Get back to work,' she ‘heard’. ‘No one needs to know, foolish girl.’
‘In fact, you’ll never know for sure.’ ‘Watch what your fingers are doing.’
And then, she flashed me a foolish grin, revealing a few gaps as if to prove it.
That was to be my only warning. We worked on silently now.
It was the voice that startled her. A voice that pierced to unexpected depths.
Maggie looked up to see eyes to match. He addressed her in a cultured accent that was at odds with his rugged appearance. “The wool is a good teacher, no? The weaving can become like your meditation.
Come, Come again !
Whatever you are...
Whether you are infidel,
idolater or fireworshipper.
Whether you have broken your vows
of repentance a hundred times
This is not the gate of despair,
This is the gate of hope.
Come, come again...
cone hotel terrace tawny bizarre dream-like land anazasi People still live in these old cave dwellings and visitors are apt to see women baking bread in 400 year old communal ovens Cappadocia is a geological poem written by time, by million-yeared wind and water sweeping or softly sliding by. the hand that shaped these forms seems all but sentient, giving fantastic shape to a world not quite of this planet.Penetrating magic What do people want? freedom adventure security magic just dissecting feelings easy) Weaves a thread that winds around the countryside Cappadocia has one of the most interesting and spectacular landscapes in the world. About three million years ago the volcanoes of Mt. Erciyes and Mt. Hasan covered the surrounding plateau with volcanic tuft as a result of their violent eruptions. The natural effects of wind, water and rain eroded this area into a spectacular, surrealist landscape of rock caves, capped pinnacles and fretted ravines in colors ranging from warm tones of red and gold to cool tones of green and gray.
Dating back to 4000 BC; the earliest people used to live in Goreme known as Cappadocia, in dwellings dug into the rock. Goreme Open Air Museum, 8 kms northwest of Urgup, is a monastic complex of rock churches, and chapels decorated with frescoes. The churches of Elmali, St. Basil, St. Barbara, Yilanli, Karanlik, Charikli and Tokali, their frescoes very well preserved. pilgrims still visit Goreme and Uchhisar provide bewitching scenery of cones and chimney formations. Uchhisar Fortress is the highest point with an enchanting view from atop. In Chavushin, you will find the monastery of St. John the Baptist. The attractive town of Avanos is famous for its handicrafts, pottery, Soganli has a picturesque beauty with dozens of chapels, churches, halls and tombs. The Byzantine development of fresco art is observed from the 8th and 13th centuries in Soganli.
The town of Ortahisar is carved out of rock. The churches in the Balkan Valley are some of the oldest. Kizilchukur Valley is strikingly beautiful during sunset. You should not miss that marvelous picture.