The Delphi Moment

(adapted from my book Elderwoman: Reap the wisdom, feel the power, embrace the joy.)

It was a beautiful summer afternoon, many years ago, and I was with my partner and our young children, on a hillside near Delphi, in Greece. There was soft, sweet-smelling grass to sit on, and the furry company of bumblebees, busy about their business in the wildflowers. Below us an incomparable view across the Gulf of Corinth and above us the warm and ancient stones of that most magical of places. 

The ancient Greeks believed that Delphi was the center of the world, and they marked the spot with a sacred stone, the omphalos, or navel of the Earth. It still stands, a squat obelisk, decorated with a delicate tracery of sculpted leaves, guarded from the touch of hands by a stern-faced guard. We had touched it anyway, feather lightly and reverently, accepting as our fate the stern guard's wrath at our disobedience, but knowing that the experience our fingertips had stolen could never be repossessed. 

We had walked there from the youth hostel, arriving before the gate was even opened. In the quiet of early morning, we had washed our faces and sipped cool water from the spring, just as the ancient pilgrims did, in purification, before ascending the winding steps of the Sacred Way. We were way ahead of the tour buses, and it was still quiet enough to hear the voice of the Oracle whispering through the pencil pines. When the crowds began to arrive, we were already far above them, sitting in the topmost amphitheater and taking it in turns to run races and do cartwheels for each other's entertainment, watched or maybe even joined in our play by the amused ghosts of long-dead athletes. 

By the time the sun was high and the car park full, we had returned to the village for food, and now here we were on the hillside, hungry for our picnic lunch. Fresh bread, fresh butter, fresh honey and dried figs. 

That was all. Fresh, crusty, newly baked bread, white goat's butter, local honey, and the plump brown figs that glistened with the sweetness of last summer's sun. Delicious-tasting spring water to drink. 

The utter satisfying simplicity of that meal, assisted by the numinous Delphic energy, reawakened in me a certain feeling from childhood. It was like the feeling that came with the smell of Grandma’s bread baking. A feeling of pure, sensory delight.

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