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The strange shape of longing

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Thursday, 23 February 2017


Of all the things, I’ve missed the hills.

Not the sun or the food or the sea. And even if I’ve missed the sea, it was more or less to be expected. The sea was the undeniable charmer. But the earthy, rocky hills and mountains never screamed of their beauty. To my eyes, they were ordinary. And they were mine. I’ve always taken them for granted, like an invisible – and, alas, indispensable – caretaker.

As it often happens with longing once it settles as a state of mind, it was only through it that I discovered with surprise my fondness of hills and mountains. It was there, evident in the regularity of my climbs, but somehow I dismissed it, perhaps in the same way that fishermen dismiss their love of the sea as something too inherent in their daily lives – a necessity rather than a choice.

In a place devoid of great heights, revisiting in my mind the places I’ve been to and revoking that feeling of wishing to jump and fly over and take the whole world in is my only option. The southern slopes of Hymettus were my sanctuary as a teenager in turmoil and the burial grounds of my beloved dog a quarter of a century later. Lycabettus and Strefi hills were my daily getaway from the crammed city center of Athens in the years I spent there, and Pnyka the extra treat on not too warm a day. I remember watching from my balcony the flames emerging in the distance from behind Mount Parnitha with a mixture of frustration and awe, as well as watching the cityscape at night from that very mountain’s peak. I have experienced unique pagan feasts in the mountains of Epirus and Macedonia and an almost mystical revelation of nature in the sacred forest of Dirfys. Besides, there are very few things in life that can offer you this all-encompassing feeling that you get when you watch the sun rising below you from the top of a bare monolith, and you begin realizing what wealth truly is once you’ve watched the shimmer of crystals and the colorful richness of minerals ending in -ite.

I never considered myself a mountain lover because I felt that the title belonged to the true devouts: The self-neglecting rock climbers, the paragliders, the enthusiasts who spend more than they earn in trekking gear or even the people who just prefer to spend their summers in the mountains instead of the sea. But now that I sigh over TV views of Californian hills and salivate over images of Pic du Midi, it’s time to reconsider. Sometimes love comes as a surprise – as the perspective that you’re missing.

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Friday, 24 February 2017 12:40
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