Athens in Layers

Athens is a city alive. It hums with life at all hours...motorcycles blasting by inches from where you stand, laundry hanging across balconies, flowering vines climbing ancient marble walls, old women carefully picking out fruit on the corner, old men arguing soccer scores at the neighborhood newsstand. As you walk the streets, there are small signs everywhere of how long people have lived and died and made their homes here. From the hilltop in the First Cemetery of Athens, you can stand next to a headstone from the 19th century, look over at the Parthenon built in 447 BCE, and bow your head in solemnity as a group of mourners make their way past you to the funeral taking place that very moment. It is city of layers, of new lives built upon old ones, of modern history overlapping ancient. Signs of some of Greece's current economic crisis butt right up against signs of its history as the world's leader in philosophy, art, and democracy, a reminder that greatness rises and falls, that cycle is inescapable, that we all have our own moments of enlightenment and decline. There are lessons to be gleaned from this, insights into our own sustainability, a call to dig into our own overlapping layers.

 

 

In The Heart

As I've mentioned here a few times lately, I recently traveled to Greece to document Terry Cockburn's solo marathon in the birthplace of the marathon. In the heart of Athens, she woke in the pre-dawn hours, not for a medal or fanfare, without support or spectators, but for the simple joy of the work and the beauty of the challenge. She met unexpected obstacles along the way, a planned route that had to be scrapped, brutal hills, high temps, traffic that never yields to the pedestrian, and yet she ran on, continuing to put one foot in front of the other until she reached 26.2.

It's never easy to push ourselves, to step out of what we know and away from what is comfortable to pursue a goal, and I would argue that that is especially true when the goal is seemingly arbitrary and comes without public accolade, when it doesn't "count" for anything "official". It's in these kinds of pursuits that true character shines through, in these moments that a person's real mettle is truly tested. Pride can't carry you- no one is watching. There is nothing but the internal dynamic, the potential dialogue with our inner self-critic when inevitable doubt creeps its way in during a moment of exhaustion, the choices we make about which of the stories we tell ourselves we allow to become truth. 

Terry is an athlete in the truest sense of the word. She is one of the most disciplined and driven and focused people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. She is a runner and a yogi and a teacher and a mother and a wife and a business owner and a writer, and that doesn't even scratch the surface of all that she puts out into the world. Her dedication to this challenge and the mental acuity she brought to the pursuit was fascinating to watch and an honor to be a part of.

Be sure to read more about Terry's run here!

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Nothing like a little yin yoga during a layover to keep things loose...or checking email...the realities of being a business owner...

Getting a sense of the city...and realizing that the marathon route planned from home wasn't going to work...

Miles of walking the hills of Athens in pursuit of a new route...

Game day. The route was still a little shaky, but Terry wasn't. Long before first light, she was ready.

A little dynamic warm-up, and off she went.

Running past the Panathenaic Stadium at first light...

...along the National Garden...

...and into the First Cemetery of Athens...

...and to the Acropolis, through the throngs of tourists that began to gather as the hours passed...

A quiet finish among the crowds in the Plaka...

Who needs a medal when there is gelato and waffles?

Equinox

Today marks the autumnal equinox for the northern hemisphere, one of two days per year where there is a balance between the light of day and the dark of night. After today, that balance will tip towards night, the hours of darkness outweighing the hours of light until reaching equality once again in March.

I take a deep comfort in this, in knowing that we are entering the six months of more night than day. I take comfort in the cycle of it, knowing that the darkness brings with it a time of deepening rest and reflection. By this point in the year, after the pace and growth and outwardness of the summer season, I feel so very ready for a quieting to begin. For the evenings to draw close earlier, when (if I can forego the temptation to stare at a screen, with its artificial stimulation) I can feel my body beginning to align with the rhythms of this season and the repose it asks for.

I crave slow mornings this time of year, sitting with steaming mug on the steps in the pre-dawn chill, melting into the fog that's so ubiquitous of Septembers here as cool night air meets the warmth of the rising sun. I crave root vegetables and chunks of nutty bread. I crave long runs in the woods and the crunching of freshly fallen leaves underfoot. I crave cider and pumpkins on porches and the first wafts of woodsmoke on the chilled evening air. I crave Jane Austen and golden candlelight and fresh, spicy, springy gingerbread. I crave home, whether that is a stick-and-stone proper house, or simply our little camper and the small ways we've made it our own.

Today is traditionally known as Mabon, and is celebrated as the second of the three harvest festivals. It is a time to reflect not only on the balance of dark and light (in season, in nature, within ourselves), but also a time to take special notice of the abundance in our lives. As Americans, we tend to save this gratitude for Thanksgiving, but I happily embrace any reminder to reflect with deep and genuine gratitude on the many, many blessings in my life. It is also a good time to notice what I am "reaping" that I perhaps didn't mean to "sow"...areas of my life where this is disquiet or conflict or jealousy or smallness...and to take immediate action to remedy where I have allowed pain or anguish or misunderstanding to flourish.

As the earth continues its cycle of dying back, of moving into the deep dormancy of winter, I can feel a primal and intuitive pull to align myself with that rhythm. To heed the necessity of allowing that which must die to die so that new life can burst forth  in the spring. To allow ailing ideas or dreams or relationships to be released in order for space to be created for new ones to abound and to welcome that release with a genuine gratitude for all that those old ideas and dreams and relationships taught me and added to my life in their prime.  

So I go forth this day with gratitude and release, with an acceptance and welcoming for the inward-turning nature of the darkness and for the season of rest and reflection that must happen in order for new life and creativity to grow with health and heartiness.

Happy Fall, y'all!!

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I can't wait to share more of my recent trip to Greece with you guys next week, but in the meantime, here are a few quick favorites from my whirlwind trip! 

Locked & Loaded

As I’ve mentioned once before here in this space, I have packing issues. Like stupid ones. But I’ve been working on it and there has been some serious improvement. I admit that this is partially due to the fact that I simply don’t have as many choices these days…I donated he majority of my clothing when we moved into the camper and have been living with less in general, so I have less to choose from and am more comfortable than ever re-wearing things a few times between washes (this obviously doesn’t extend to undergarments, just in case you were concerned). And there is just the plain fact that I’ve come to deeply appreciate simplicity…being able to carry-on and not deal with lugging heavy or ginormous bags around an airport or down a city street is just easier and more comfortable.

I aspire to always carry-on and to someday be able to do that almost regardless of the length of my trip, but given the nature of my work and the fact that it’s imperative that I bring the right equipment (and back-ups) to do my job well, that won’t always be possible. But this trip to Greece is short and happening in reliably warm weather, so I’ve managed it and thought you might be curious about my packing list (I’ll be sure to add an update with any regrets/mistakes/wishes when I get back!), so here’s what I brought along for a week of travel:

In my backpack (goes in the overhead):

In my LL Bean leather tote (similar to this one)(stays with me):

  • MacBook Pro & power cord
  • 2 WD Passport harddrives
  • Journal
  • 2 Scout Books (pocket-sized for jotting quick notes as I go)
  • iPad mini (loaded with Kindle books, downloaded magazines, Skillshare classes, etc)
  • phone (loaded with audiobooks, podcasts, etc)
  • headphones
  • small pencil pouch with pens
  • A few travel snacks
  • money/credit cards
  • hand sanitizer

Clothing on plane:

  • LL Bean long knit dress in black
  • grey cardigan sweater (not sure where/when I picked it up…)
  • scarf
  • Chaco flip flops (had them forever…similar to these)

Annnnnnnd….that’s it! It’s definitely possible that I will be the stinky girl on my plane ride home, but I’m cool with that...

I can't wait to share some Greek adventures with you when I get back! In the meantime, feel free to follow along on Instagram!

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