“Greece is soaked with the blood of my forebears, with that final offering of their fierce love.”—Helen Noakes
By Helen Noakes
“I felt this was my duty, my sole duty: to reconcile the irreconcilables, to draw the thick ancestral darkness out of my loins and transform it, to the best of my ability, into light.”—Nikos Kazantzakis,” Report to Greco”
SAN FRANCISCO California—(Weekly Hubris)—3/16/2014—This journey along the varied landscape of Greece—sometimes verdant, other times rocky and wild—bordered by its “wine dark sea,” took me to places beyond my expectation. Everywhere I turned, the land, the sea, spoke to me of an intense persistent struggle for freedom.
Greece is soaked with the blood of my forebears, with that final offering of their fierce love.
As a child, I used to wonder at the stories of the Kleftis’* grim determination, their courage against all odds. But now, I understand the level of their outrage at people who saw their beloved Greece as no more than a pawn, a useful foothold.
To possess a land, a person, without love, is the ultimate outrage.
Standing on a rocky promontory in Crete, I thought of the films of Michael Cacoyannis: “Electra,” with its rock-strewn landscapes rendered even starker in black–and–white. “Iphigenia,” with its lush summer panoramas, rendering a young girl’s fate more tragic for their promise. In both films, Irini Pappas’ breathtaking, stern beauty, her razor–sharp delivery of Euripides’ immortal lines, mesmerized and enchanted. And I knew that the hunger with which I watched those films, drank in the Greek spoken so mellifluously, was a soul-deep need to own my heritage and my life.
Do we inherit more than the blood of our ancestors? Is the life coursing within us a melding of the memories, the lives, the loves, the hatreds of all our countrymen, dead and alive?
Surely much of what I felt, standing in the temple precincts and sacred sites was colored by my research and my family’s sentiments. But there was something more. At some point, I cannot pinpoint exactly when, I felt as if everywhere I stood in Greece was a sacred site—everywhere I swam as well. It was the womb of my forebears—my Great Mother, my home.
*Kleftis (Κλέφτης): freedom fighters during the Ottoman occupation of Greece.
Note: The above essay is a second offering from a work in progress, the author’s fiction-memoir, The Art of Living Dangerously. Writes Noakes: “Now, at the beginning of a new year, I wish to thank all my readers for taking the time to read and send comments on these pieces. Your support warms my heart and encourages me to continue. May 2015 bring joy and fulfillment to us all.”