Saturday, September 24, 2016

Women on the Ancient Wall of Kranea

Surely on another autumn day like this, the acorns swelling green on the trees, the earth dark red with rain, the sky elaborately patterned with the tatters of a storm, another woman stood here on the behemoth limestone wall of the ancient acropolis called Kranea, looking north across a fertile oak valley at noon.

Maybe the wife of a soldier who patrolled the wall, looking out for invaders from the eastern acropolis at Sami, came to bring him a basket of corn meal cakes and sheep's cheese and a flask of weak wine for lunch.

Or maybe his daughter, with black braids and bare feet and fistfuls of acorns to throw at imagined foes. Or maybe an old woman, despite orders, in a time of peace, wearing the saffron robes of an old priestesshood, a school from Before the wall and the acropolis and the men who could move and chisel the earth into such giant blocks.

Maybe she came to look and to think, to dangle her veined old legs until someone stopped her, to sing the songs her grandmother left her, songs for the moon and the red earth and the harvest.

Songs from before even the names of Artemis, Demeter or Kore. Before She was broken into a hundred pieces and scattered. As one name She was far too strong even for a wall of immortal limestone cut by teams of oxen and men.

And what of a woman just my age and size and temperament, twenty-seven and slight, a dreamer with a hearty appetite and a streak of anxious nerves? Did she ever walk this wall?

She would have had children, no doubt, half-grown already. A body broader and more generous for it. What broke her fast at dawn? What words did she murmur to the rising sun? What lullabies to her daughters and sons with the moon? What teas for their coughs, what fears, what hopes, what smell and warmth of her husband in the heat of the early autumn dark?

Now, the wall stands tumbled. The spines of scrub oak, soft-eared salvias, white blooming squill spires, olive trees and thyme push everywhere around and between.

Lichens spread across the stone, maps of millennia, each century's island.

Rain, two thousand years of it, has made hollows, tunnels and bowls in the limestone wall, like the underbelly of Kefalonia itself, riddled with freshwater passageways and underground rivers.

Everywhere across the dark red earth, small purple crocuses have sprung up out of the rain.

Somewhere, there are pieces of an old temple to Demeter, but nobody seems to know where, and stones, after so long, begin to look alike. We eat a picnic on the old entrance gates and talk of ancient carts and chariots, the sound of wheels, of hooves, the life of the gatekeeper.

Goats nap, belled, under olive trees beyond a wire fence. We leave dry golden grapes from a small market and a pinch of rolling tobacco in a rainmade hollow for Demeter, since we can't find her temple. The sky and its clouds talk about rain.

The people of ancient Kranea are now only the red earth, the olive, the crocus, the acorns, the chisel marks on their colossal guardian wall. We try to visit some of their tombs at Mazarakata, but the gates are closed, the lock rusted. We can see a few through the fence, full of wild thyme. There is one almond-shaped hole into the earth, womanly and dark. There, in the red earth, everything is reborn. There, the fall of civilizations is not past, but now, resting in mythtime. Right there, where Demeter walks, with purple crocuses at her heels. 


  1. i'm glad to see that i am not alone in imagining the people who existed in a place long ago...i've a particular soft spot for your elderly priestess in her saffron dyed robe.

  2. Beautiful, as always, Sylvia. And I must thank you, for I recently (finally!) got round to reading 'Weft', and it was precisely what I needed. It was raining here as I read , and it seemed just right, in a magical kind of way. x

  3. Beautiful....sent shivers down mine spine xxx

  4. Beautiful....sent shivers down mine spine xxx