The Aegean Journey

May 18, 2018

Cruising Shadows and Peace on Patmos

Filed under: Uncategorized — A @ 5:20 pm

Okay, so it looks like Brandon has given y’all a fairly decent rundown of things we’ve done since Athens. (So, you know, most of the trip.) Even though we’re in Istanbul at the moment, I thought I’d backtrack and fill in a few thoughts about our cruise and about one of my favorite moments of the trip thus far.

First, CRUISE. Or I could say, “My First Cruise.” Yeah, a self-proclaimed world traveler who’s never done a cruise until age 33 seems a little unbelievable, but BELIEVE IT. That’s how it went down. I had been looking forward to the cruise part of the trip quite a bit, and it didn’t disappoint. Despite my inclination toward motion sickness, I love being on boats and have, at my core, really just always wanted to be a pirate. Okay, maybe in THAT regard, I found the cruise disappointing; no plank-walking or argh-saying or pillaging. But yeah, “sailing for adventure on the big blue wet thing” (name that quote) has always been something I thought I’d enjoy, AND I DID.

The all-inclusiveness “resort-y” feel of the cruise was… good and bad. I liked not having to penny-pinch or do loads of mental math when figuring out if a second glass of wine may or may not be allowed for in the budget. I didn’t like the ease with which I could charge ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING to my card on file. Very dangerous for someone like me. I also didn’t necessarily like every aspect of the shore excursions, but I’m ultimately thankful for them; I wouldn’t have gotten to see those beautiful places without the “package deal” aspect of a cruise. We met someone who lives on the island of Patmos who described the cruise passengers as “shadows”: they appear for a brief while, then they vanish before you know it. I wish we didn’t have to be “shadows,” but I’m glad we got to be there at all.

Which brings me to the second part of what I wanted to write about today: our little pilgrimage on Patmos. As has been the case with me in the past, I actually found that the destination itself — in this case, the grotto where John received the vision for and then wrote the Revelation — less empowering and inspiring than the journey to get there. (I remember the FIRST time I visited the Isle of Iona in Scotland to be that way. One of the most spiritually significant moments for me in that journey actually happened in the port town of Oban, back on the mainland. Now, of course, Iona eventually ended up being a hugely important part of my spiritual journey, but that particular instance… it was not where I felt closest to the Divine.) Don’t get me wrong, the grotto is a REALLY cool place, and I loved being there and letting my imagine run a little wild. “Did John see the sea the same way we see it? Did his sunsets look like this one? What did he feel, touch, smell, hear while he was in this place? Did God speak to him through those sunsets and breezes and birdcalls?” etc etc. However, I didn’t meet God there, like I thought I might. I met God on the path.

Rather, I should say I met a fellow Christian on the path, which, to me, is about as good as meeting God.

Brandon and I had decided to dispense with the cruise company’s canned “shore excursion” and make the walk from the port to the grotto on our own. It was a little frustrating at first, not finding a clearly marked sign of any kind from the village and having to walk on a curvy, uphill, main road with fast cars on it. But once we found the main walking path upwards to John’s quarters, it started to feel like a nice, calm, late afternoon walk on a dusty path among trees.

That is, of course, until a man started up the very same path behind us. And I will admit, RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF GOD AND ALL YOU INTERNET PEOPLE AND EVERYBODY, that I hold a little bit of a bias against… well, against strangers. Maybe it’s the introvert in me, maybe it’s the long-encrusted residue of childhood warnings against strangers, but whatever the reason, I’m never automatically friendly toward them. I’m especially less friendly toward them when I’m trailing behind Brandon on a dusty uphill climb among trees in the late afternoon without the comforting security blanket of a canned cruise company “shore excursion.” So when this lone man asked me if I speak English, I tenuously offered my standard safe response in these situations: “A little.”

The man told me that the guy in front of me should walk more slowly, so I could keep up with him. I smiled and said, “Yes, he probably should, but sometimes it is also nice to have my own space.” We proceeded to chat a bit, and I decided, without a few minutes, that this guy was not going to murder us or beg for money. He was just a nice guy. Brandon finally engaged with him, too, and when he offered to show us a shortcut to the Grotto, we both hesitantly agreed. We later confirmed that we were both mentally recalling all our various martial arts and self-defense moves we’d ever been taught, just in case “shortcut” was Patmos code for “ass-whoopin.”

Fortunately, however, none of this was necessary. Our new friend just talked with us, that was all. He talked about how he’d lived in America for awhile and how he still has a daughter (maybe two??) who live there. He told us how he saw the cruise passengers as shadows, and I shared with him that I, too, had once lived on a island and felt a little saddened by the brief visits from tourists who couldn’t fully love the place in the way *I* thought it ought to be loved; he then expressed appreciation for us branching out on our own and finding the road less traveled.

Most importantly, thought, he told us about his peace summit he’s hosting on the island on July 7 of this year. We shared our frustrations with the world’s current climate and certain *ahem* PEOPLE’S roles in deteriorating already fragile attempts to bring out something resembling peace in the more tumultuous parts of the world. He showed us his little signposts he’d made — flyers printed on paper and left under “paperweight” rocks at 7-stone-high structures along the path. As we eventually approached the Grotto of the Apocalypse, we exchanged names and thanked him for journeying with us along the way. He told us he went by Frank — “Frankly Frank,” he said, so we’d remember — and we promised to spread the word about his peace summit.

After our very pleasant visit to the Grotto, we retraced our steps, back down Frank’s shortcut and onto the main footpath back to town. We noticed one of his little signposts and thought it would be nice to take a Bunny photo with the printed flyer. Imagine our surprise when we found a second printed flyer, held down by a “paperweight rock,” with a note addressed to “Fast Brandon and his wife.” Frank had written us a note with his blessings on it, as well as his email address. We left him a note with my email address and our thanks again for his companionship on our brief little pilgrimage, as well as a 20-euro note for his summit (hopefully that didn’t get stolen??). The funniest thing was, WE ACTUALLY SAW HIM AGAIN, about 30 minutes or so later, in town!! He told us about his note, we told him about ours, and we hugged and kissed and took photos and promised to stay in touch. We’ve since emailed and found each other on Facebook, and I hope this blog here starts to put Patmos on people’s radars as a place for peace.

It’s a fun story, by itself. And I could leave it right there. But being a person of faith… I can’t leave it there. I had so hoped that I might find God SOMEWHERE on this trip, and I’ll admit that my expectations for Patmos were high. I wondered if perhaps it was also a “thin place, where only tissue paper separates the material from the spiritual.” The Grotto itself was not, at least on this journey, that thin place, but the island was. Encountering a truly kind, passionate, spirit-filled person who was simply walking the path we were walking, sharing the same space and the same journey, was certainly a moment of encountering the Divine. I am so thankful we took our own path at the exact time we did and that “Frankly Frank” was kind enough to speak to us, share some of his story, and befriend us. I am thankful for this encounter and the true encouragement we were able to find by learning of his passion for peace and for God.

I promise I’ll return to more typical “travel blog” thoughts next time. For now, though, I think this is a good time to wrap up.

Comment on this post »

  1. Thanks again for the wonderful insights and the mental picture of what it looks like where you’re at. Had to look for thin places sometimes and often find them in people: kind compassionate selfless humble people. Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever a thin place for anybody else and have to admit that I have a hard time believing that I am. I hope you and Brandon are enjoying your trip taking in what most of us will never see but only read about and enjoying the world that God gave us.

    Comment by Mark — May 19, 2018 @ 5:54 pm

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