If life is the greatest journey of all, then last week I went on one small pilgrimage within my life’s odyssey. Of course, a pilgrimage is usually thought of as a religious undertaking; the process of travelling for religious reasons to somewhere held to be sacred. My pilgrimage was not truly a religious one, but more spiritual in nature; meaning the seeking of something or somewhere that elevates my sense of well-being.
There are several such places I can rely on for spiritual sustenance. One of these is nearer to home; being the entire North Yorkshire Dales. I have often joked that, during the week, my body can be found working in North Lincolnshire whilst my soul is freely roaming around the Yorkshire Dales. When time allows, I don walking boots and a back pack and stride into the dales where, with a sigh of pleasure and a great sense of freedom, my soul re-joins my body and I am once again as one with the world around me.
If that seems a trifle odd, you may then find it hard to believe that a small portion of my soul also lives in the remote and deserted mountain village of Vouni in Cyprus. With a chequered history that includes being a centre for EOKA (the National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters, who fought a campaign for the end of British rule of Cyprus) the village was down to a population of about 136 in 2001. Most of the old stone houses are now empty, abandoned and crumbling; with the cobbled streets echoing to little more than the occasional footsteps of the inquisitive traveller.
However, despite its past, there is one stone house that held my attention when I first stumbled across it a few years ago. Tucked away in a narrow side street, it stands as a detached sentinel, waiting. Lizards have been its only inhabitants for some years; the paint on its shutters is peeling, and the doors are held fast by rusty bolts. A balcony adorns the first floor at the front, appearing to stay in place more by an act of levitation than any means of construction; whilst a rambling bougainvillea entwines the whole in its rose-red petals. It is a potential haven just waiting for a writer or artist; its empty rooms echoing to the sound of chatter and untold stories amidst filtered beams of sunlight. I was smitten at first sight; so much so that a small portion of my soul was left there, recumbent in the shade of its courtyard.
We all need places of retreat, where we can recharge our batteries. However, we do not need to own them to experience their life-enhancing power. Neither do we always need to travel far; it may be somewhere very close to home that works for you. For the sake of physical and mental health, it is important to find that place, or those places in your life, and to tap into their revitalising power from time to time.
First published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, 30 May 2013
© Copyright Robert M Jaggs-Fowler 2013