All images © James Sapsard.
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Imerovigli. The day was hot; hotter than any I could remember. It seemed as though I was buying an iced drink at every shop I passed. I turned left and staggered down a shaded alley. Maybe there was a way to the beach. Water warm but cooler than the sun. I saw the rock. I didn’t know it then but I was gazing at Skaros. What a fool I was. With the gods but without a camera. Well, not entirely without. I’d picked up a disposable camera on my way up the hill. Now, thankfully, the way was down.
I felt a hand on my arm; the lightest touch; the hand of a lady. I turned, smiling. There was no one there. It’s the heat, I told myself, or maybe a mosquito. Then I saw her, indistinct in form; a heat haze; a mirage; hair to her waist; such lonely eyes. We reached out to each other. A bead of sweat ran into my eye and I blinked. In that moment, she was gone. You’re hallucinating, I told myself. I didn’t believe that then and I don’t believe it now. I know who she is. She’s been with me all my life; appearing only in moments when I doubt my own lucidity. It’s that doubt that makes her real; our mutual denial and illogical defiance of her non-existence.
I stumbled on, wanting to simply lie down and sleep in the shadow. I descended half a dozen short flights of steps, turning this way and that, until I emerged, my view of my destination no longer obstructed by the walls of the route I had taken.
Now I could see the second, lower, path. I was intent only in taking the upper path and climbing up onto the flat summit, where I could see another ancient path. I picked my way carefully down the remaining flights of white steps until I reached the single pathway that almost immediately divided. I climbed a few steps onto the upper path. Where the path was steeper, flights of steps had been laid. As I took the first flight, I looked to my left.
I climbed on, Skaros, the peak I wished to climb now beside me on my right, the lower elevation at the back of the rock now apparent to me.
I glanced again to my left.
I continued on my way to find that the path ended behind the rock. I retraced a few steps and began to climb intending to reach the summit. As I glanced back, I saw Nature’s rock goddess, somehow previously unnoticed.
I climbed higher until I stood just below the lower, rear plateau of the rock.
I nearly died that day, my human frailty reaffirmed. It had not been difficult, reaching Skaros, but the climb to the top was beyond me and such skills as I possessed insufficient to achieve my purpose. The path had been easy enough, my route recorded on my newly acquired disposable camera.
I had climbed behind the rock, over the barriers installed by man and disguised as rock fall; ever circling and upward until I could progress no more. I could see, above me, protruding from the smooth rock, a short length of twisted, rusting, tempting handrail, as far beyond my grasp as my feeble understanding, yet my outstretched mind and arm tried and tried to reach the remnants of a rusting handrail, a clear indication that once there had been an iron stair case, long since removed, to the higher plateau.
I turned away, seeking an alternate means or route to the hilltop fort. I saw a way, dangerous, enticing and thrilling, to my right, stepping out over the void, relying on the strength of my arms to sustain my life on an upward pull of indeterminate length. I found the strength; to abort my foolish quest. I climbed, contemplatively, down and retraced my steps to follow the lower path.
This path seemed more precarious yet it was not overgrown. I took its twisting route expecting only to find another path ending.
I turned what effectively was the final corner.
Not visible from the headland, the hidden chapel of Theoskepasti was now revealed to me. Still troubled by thoughts of the risk I had almost foolishly taken, I now found my peaceful solitude facing the calm Aegean. Such blue water, such blue sky; the height and depth of the firmament. What more could there be?
I entered the small courtyard in front of the chapel. I wondered, would my inexpensive disposable camera accurately frame and capture the memories my mind was creating? The lens and exposure were fixed. I stood as far from the chapel as I could, leaning back over the courtyard wall at the cliff’s edge, pointing my camera skyward and framing the belfry.
I sat on the wall and rested; my forgotten tiredness and dehydration catching up with me. Time to make my way back. In my fatigued state, the path seemed almost treacherous. I wanted another photo of the caldera. I realised also that nature called. I stepped carefully down from the path and pointed the camera.
There would be no more surprises today, I mused and after responding to nature’s call, turned back to the path. I had not expected what I could now see.
Amazed, I peered within. Caution was now the order of the day. I was peering into a room but the interior was too dark for me to make out the depth or size. I promised myself that I would come back to this and one day, I will.
© James Sapsard 2015
All images © James Sapsard