Storyyoutell,Captured Moment

A Captured Moment

Dephi, Greece – October 17, 1990

By Judy Reeves

After a visit to the Archeological Museum and the Sanctuary of Apollo, I seek refuge in the Sanctuary of Athena, another ancient site excavated and preserved in Delphi. To get there I follow a road for a short distance from Apollo’s Sanctuary, down a hill, then down a path, and down and down into a tree-shaded site much smaller than the one I’d just explored with its theater encircled by five thousand stone seats and the nearby vast field where the Pythian games were held, and where stone seats for seven thousand still rise on the hillside above the green.

Storyyoutell,A Captured Moment

Here in Athena’s Sanctuary all is still except for the birds in the many olive trees and the soft breeze high above, which causes the leaves to reveal their silver-gray shadings. Few other visitors wander the site.

Two women from Spain and I share a stone bench where we speak softly, honoring the holiness of the place. The Temple of Athena in the Parthenon in Athens is a holy place too. But in this sun-dappled sanctuary I am more aware of sacredness, though I can’t say what I am worshipping. I am sanctified, at peace. There are only our voices, the birdsong, and the dry green smell of the olive trees.

After a few moments I separate myself from the others and slip silently among the ruins, placing my palm against the columns as if taking their pulse, a physical connection of two living beings. I do this: palm to tree trunks; palm to wooden doors and beams and tables, against the curve of clay pots; palm against the earth, against the stirring skin of the ocean, lakes, ponds; palm against paper as my other hand travels across the page, chasing language. And yes, palms against necks and faces and lips.

“You will experience many heartbreaks,” a long-ago palmist intones, holding my hand in her two and skimming her finger along the Heart line. “Your Heart line is broken in many places,” she says, shaking her head, uttering a sigh.

My right hand, the one I write with, was tattooed decades ago when, after sharpening my pencil on the hand-crank sharpener adhered to the wall of my sixth-grade classroom, I accidentally stabbed myself in the palm just above the Heart line. A residue of lead dust stained the small puncture and is still there today, faint and barely visible but present. Though I had been writing my stories and poems and plays for a few years already, I believe I marked myself there and then as Writer.

As I’ve confessed, I am a superstitious woman, always searching for signs and omens. I give significance to flights of birds, try to read the hieroglyphics of fallen rose petals, and attempt to translate hidden messages in the words of a book left open on a table.

In Athena’s Sanctuary shadows grow long and the sun glows golden against Mount Parnassus—home to the Muses—as it sets below the rocky walls of the Phaedriades. The afternoon cools as I ascend the hill back up along the path that will take me past the ruins of Apollo’s Sanctuary, the theater, the field, those three iconic columns, back into Delphi itself and my hotel.

Alone, I follow the path high above the sloping hill of olive trees and come upon a bench where I stop and gaze into the valley and far, far below where the silver ribbon of the Pleistos curves sensuously. The sheen on the olive trees gilds the gray leaves. No wind bothers the leaves. All is quiet and serene.

A tabby cat wanders up and winds himself around the legs of the bench then against my legs, bare beneath the length of my skirt. I bend to pet him. “Hello kitty, kitty,” I croon and scritch behind his willing ears; his tail curls next to my calf. “Kitty, kitty,” I say again. He talks back, a soft meow. I pat the bench beside me, inviting him up. At first he doesn’t respond. “Kitty, kitty,” I say in that high voice we sometimes use with cats, patting the bench again. This time he joins me and we sit, kitty and I, at rest. My hand lightly on his head rubbing his soft gray ears.

Then there is a man behind me. He may have come along the path and I didn’t see him because I was leaning over attending to the cat.

“You are the queen of all this,” the man says and sweeps his arm to take in all that is below us—the steep hillside, the silver-and-gold olive trees, the gleaming Pleistos.

He wears workingman’s clothes, hair the color of coal and eyes appreciative of the vista; he’s short and broad-shouldered. He smiles. Sincere. I smile. He sweeps his arm again. “All of this.”

He stands there for a moment, then moves on. The cat jumps down and ambles away, too, sauntering nonchalantly as cats do.

I survey all that is before me—this magnificent view. I want to be fully present in this moment as the sun is at that precise angle, as the trees are that exact turn of color, as the river flows in just that way. I put my palm against the wood of the bench, still warm in the late afternoon; our pulses beat together. This is all it takes to be Queen of All—to simply be here and be present.

Note: Here is a link to Judy’s lovely book-