Katharos

We had reached the high point. At a summit, the reddish ruins of an ancient church (which had been a fortress before that) surrounded us. The “wine colored” sea– like a great round bed, freshly made with deep linens in a windy room– fanned out below. A black iron fence stood more recently erected, protecting us at that edge. Attached to it were were dozens of love locks. I turned around in the sunlight; my brother had his hands in his pockets. We sat down on some stone steps to continue our conversation.

What is most important to you?

This …

Funny, that’s so similar to what’s important to me …

What is the sustainable basis of true friendship? (Or vice versa… What is the true basis of sustainable friendship?) How is it really (possible?) to be fearless? How can one lead others into fearlessness? – along (simultaneously?) with oneself?

Everybody wants to feel connected; everyone looks for connections…

We read to each other the inscriptions on the locks –mostly from marriages, we presumed– and laughed at some of them. I found a handwritten note on a folded piece of paper in a transparent pouch tied to the bars. I opened it, read it aloud, and took it with me, like a fortune.

Gradually, we walked back down the big zig zag stairway to Amoudi pier. I had thirst. Before we reached the rental car, we saw a small group of people gathered loosely around a long table, stacked with food in containers. A weathered man waved us over and invited us to share white wine in plastic cups with them. Gladly, we joined. There, sitting, Brandon eating a bowl of local mac & cheese, we met newlyweds and newly resident, Eddie and Hitome (from Athens and Japan, respectively).

Mostly, though, my “Irish twin” and I just continued our intense family discussion, like a noisy construction site, now running back to recollections of high school in Houston. Another older man, with spectacles, seated closest to the water, said he’d been to Houston, Texas for his wife’s health (or for her cancer, as the case may well have been). We did not ask how she was doing right then. I got the feeling that she might have died. I wished I could offer consolation, but I couldn’t, and I couldn’t be sure either, anyway, what happened. Brandon and I had been in Houston’s hospitals, too, though. We had even known death. We shared a look.

Last year at this time I spent hours by myself in my room. I read, I wrote. I tried to meditate. I lit candles and drew tarot cards. I tried to create. I looked at all the postcards I had made over travels over the years. I read my mother’s handwritten journals. I listened for signs. I sat on the balcony, heard birds, and looked for lizards.

On my birthday last year, 29, I went outside to lead suryanamaskar, salutations to the sun, in the backyard, facing the suburban golf course lake. My brothers and grandmother followed with me to practice. After, while we were all lying down on the lawn in savasana, I read aloud to us from my book of quotes collected since Mom died. It was a very peaceful time, calm and quiet, achingly familiar even though I’d never done anything like that for any birthday ever before.

In fact, the year before that, 28, where was I? Taking lines in the afternoon with my housemate, Dennis, in Europe, going to a surprise-underground-electro concert in a smokey squat at night, … Dancing, rolling, smoking drinking champagne at midnight, having fun, fucking around in the morning with friends who would become lovers soon and ex-friends later…

This year. In a day or two after our aperitif at the pier, my brother would have to leave the island he had brought me to, but I would surely stay, perhaps forever, I genuinely mused, and at least for my 30th birthday, the next week. I wound up alone. I wound up spending– my 28th birthday with friends, my 29th with family– my 30th birthday all alone. Seemed appropriate to me.

I walked to the beach, which remained completely deserted for heavenly hours. I sat on a cliff and listened to birds. I think I saw a golden lizard. I lay down in savasana on a boulder in the sea and listened to waves. I walked along volcanic rocks and came to a tide pool, magically pink, if you believe me, where I bathed and baptized myself ... I listened to my mother. I responded with my heart.

Every year, around the time between my birthday and the new year, I try to do some deliberate reflection upon what happened: what I learned, how I grew, what I’m grateful for, how what I want has changed. I like to engage these subjects ceremonially, if possible. In my room in Texas, I always light the nine candles of virtuous gifts I was given– helped to choose with Mom– representing love, kindness, strength, wisdom, excellence, joy, beauty, peace, courage– at my coming of age rite of passage, when I was 13. They offer me solace and my private space, a warm glow.

Imagine my surprise to arrive at the home of Hitome and Eddie this New Year’s Eve! I had been told by two new friends that we were going– I was invited along– to have dinner at the brother and sister-in-law of another friend. I had no idea– how could I know?– who they would turn out to be nor that I would have already met them– with my own brother, no less!

But my wondrous delight was not to end there. Just before midnight in the midst of one of the island’s raring windy winter storms, the power went out in the newlyweds’ modest house. Not to worry, not to worry. Please, Eddie addressed his guests, directing us to distribute from there– and– he pointed to a corner I only at that moment noticed in the living room, overflowing with various forms, moulds, sizes and shapes and colors and scents of candles, many of which appeared to have never been lit– light all the candles! he asked of us, throughout their space of home. Silently, happily, we all did.

And made magic: by the time 2015 struck, I found myself in what I could only perceive as a tunneled treasure universe, parallel to my childhood bedroom filled with candlelight and solitude — an island paradisiacal home of strangers and friends and family with an abundance of shared radiance.