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Coming of 3rd Age Stories · Journal · My running · On Ageing

In praise of lost paths, part 3.

Maybe I’m dreaming all of this up and it isn’t real. I’ve just come back from my final run round the magic reservoir and I’m still blinking in disbelief. Am I living in a Grimm’s fairy tale?

Today I was looking forward to my last lesson. I should have realised that was the warning sign. I had an expectation, in other words. What was going to happen today? I thought as I ran off towards the dam in search of lost paths. Obviously something. I was getting cocky. Life? Hello? Is that you and are you there? I’m ready now, so dish it up please, if you don’t mind. But guess what? The paths were empty.

Well I lie. As I left the village an elderly lady in a white headscarf, her grey plait flowing out behind her from underneath its folds, was walking slowly along the path ahead, shooing a flock of turkeys off the road into the olive grove to one side. Rosy cheeked, long skirted, she looked like she’d stepped straight out of central casting for a Disney princess movie where she would be the kind old woman who lives in the forest.

I said good morning to her as though old women with flocks of turkeys were an everyday sight for me and she replied in a language I didn’t recognise, pointing to her knees and grimacing. I made a sympathetic expression back and tried to look simultaneously empathetic but also non-comprehending. I guessed she must be Albanian. There are quite a lot of Albanian families living in the village; they came in the Albanian crash of the 90s and the menfolk do the building work for people like me (the other PLMs are mainly from Athens) who have moved in and bought homes to escape to on holiday. It’s a medieval village of ruins, so people who know how to build and maintain houses are always going to be in demand. My hunch was that be she was the mother of one such builder, closeted away indoors for most of the day like so many of the other Albanian women, but now on an early morning foray into the outside world away from the village centre (and other male eyes).

The nice bit was that we couldn’t communicate until I tried out that beautiful middle eastern gesture where you press your open right hand, palm down, against your upper chest and bow slightly towards the other person. Then you pull it off your chest in the direction of the person you are addressing and it’s as though a little bit of love flies from you to them from your heart. It’s such a lovely greeting! And yes it worked. She beamed and returned the gesture to me and I felt blessed and grateful and very happy that we’d connected in this way.

But I’d barely left the village, which is to say my ‘run’ hadn’t properly started. As I headed off towards the dam, I was looking forward to seeing my new friend Michalis, who keeps an eye out for me when I’m running back up the wall of the dam, or bumping into someone else with what I was now anticipating as a surprise and coded message for me as they emerged mysteriously from the thicket. But it felt like the whole area was empty. Not a soul to be seen.

I ran round the reservoir to the other side and now I was hoping beyond hope for a cool dude on a motorbike to sweep down from Belgium and carry me off on exciting adventures. Nada, my friends, nada. Maybe I’d bump into a farmer or a solitary hunter with his dogs? Nope. On I ran, round to the bit where the path ends, then through the long grasses to a bit of open land, then through some more long grasses, along and across the ditch to the bottom of the wall, up the rocks to the top and then along it, ready to turn downhill again and find the road back to the village.

I reached the end of the bridge and there was Michalis sitting quietly by the roadside. They’re fixing the road and that’s why he’s there. I’m guessing that next year when I come back the path will be gleaming and black and asphalt and I’ll have to find another place to explore. Anyway, there he was. ‘Morning Alex, he said. See, you didn’t need me today. No, I said, beating my fists on my chest pretending to be Tarzan. Seems like I didn’t. Seems like I did it all by myself today.

We shook hands and said goodbye crestor generic. He wished me safe travels and hoped that, provided life continues to be kind and good (I’m being free in my translation here), I should come back soon. I ran off down the hill.

And no, I met no one else, it wasn’t even a particularly nice run as there was a lot of wind and I felt a bit buffeted around. Why wasn’t life dishing out its daily lesson to me, I wondered? Just because I was leaving tomorrow, had I broken the spell?

When I came home I realised that of course it had been telling me something and how slow was I being not to cotton on sooner? The fairies had flown away, it’s true, but they’d done their job here and I didn’t need them now. I could run round wild places by myself and not worry about straying from the path or tripping over snakes, I really had become a little bit stronger and a little bit more adventurous over the past fortnight as I ran round that glinting water in search of the path that would finally close the circle. I never did find the path of course but hey, I’d closed the circle myself. The rocks up to the bridge weren’t that perilous and the grasses I had to walk through were just a few weeds really. And even my longer run now was starting to feel like small potatoes itself. Next year I’m thinking that I’ll have to find a new corner of wonderland around the village to explore, one where I can run further and longer and, one that, if I’m lucky and in the right mood, will reveal its own magic and charms and unfold its own new lessons for me to learn.

October 4, 2015 • #, #, #, #, #

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