There is a daily flow to my life here , alone , that is new to me . An important part of this is that I think of God a lot . His love surrounds me in everything I see , hear , taste and smell . I think there is a spiritual power in repetition , a devotional quality like saying rosaries or reciting mantras . I have found a personal routine that is peaceful in its simplicity . This week my art has become a part of this as I once again am working on sketches for the “momento mori ” series begun this past summer . There is great synchronicity and this awareness brings not only humility but also joy .
I have become enchanted with the dirt pathways , garden fences and stone enclosures . I was invited into a village home while on one of my daily walks . I could barely hold back tears as a plastic yard chair was brought into the room for me while everyone else sat on the cracked cement floor and stared at me … a warm fire tended by a father who obviously cherishes his four children and a mother trying her best to keep everything clean with loads of hand washed clothing and blankets hanging on the line on this cloudy , cold day .
The weather has turned colder now and my fire skills are slowly improving and the routine of chopping wood is making my arms stronger . It is in these daily survival tasks and in picking the apples and walnuts from the orchards that brings meaning to me . You all know that I am not a “foody” but I so much enjoy and appreciate the fresh vegetables and fruit , and because everyone labors so hard on their land , it makes the taste of every bite very delicious … and all organic and I feel the energy of the sun from these foods of the earth . I made kumquat (tree in front) salsa and roasted a large chunk of village made cheese on the open fire , added some chopped walnuts and thought I must be eating the food of the gods !
My day trip to Stara Zagora … sometimes called “Middle Earth”. It is the 6th largest city with its history going back 7000 years .
The bus driver was so kind . I must have looked a bit lost … and the depot was large . I tried to ask him where the city center was but he spoke very little English and so he left the bus and walked me all the way thru the noisy station and down the street until he pointed to the first street light and motioned three blocks further to the right . And so off I went with a thankful wave not knowing what lay ahead … Seriously , I was guided and blessed this warm autumn day as I wandered and experienced exactly what I had hoped for . I do have a Lonely Planet guide book that Nani told me to buy and I had read about this city the day before . First I came upon a huge and elegant city park as beautiful as any in the large cities of America . Once again , like in Plovdiv , this tree lined park was alive with affectionate families , young children , lovers , and many older men playing chess and just hanging out together talking and laughing , each with woolen caps or berets on and old suit coats , all smoking cigars or cigarettes . Suddenly , in front of me , was the largest open street market I had ever seen , with an amazing array of items from neighboring villages as well as from Turkey and Greece and fish from the Black Sea , pottery and colorful rugs , antique baskets brimming with nuts , flowers , cheeses , sheepskins , hand knit woolen socks and whole pigs hanging on hooks . I was definitely overwhelmed ! So much so that I instinctively turned towards the quieter narrow side streets . And then there it was , right in front of me , a most gloriously beautiful and ancient church .
I enter and a heavy scent of incense surrounds me like the morning fog hovering over the distant plowed fields I had left only earlier that day . A small choir is singing and grounding the sweet sound of the soprano voices was a deep chanting from a man on the other side of the isle . Hundreds of candles are lit and a priest in resplendent robes of velvet and a crown like high black felted hat trimmed in fur , is also chanting . The walls and ceilings of frescoes of Jesus and religious scenes depicting Biblical stories with gold leafed halos are all shining like stars reflected thru the light from the narrow stained glass windows . The people begin moving down the tiny tiled , wide center aisle of worn red carpet for the communion sacrament and I find myself amongst them and I am blessed as a young girl next to me sheds silent tears down her cheeks .
After this wonderful time in the city , I finally had a mishap . I got on the wrong bus once back in Chirpan to go back to my village . I didn’t think it was right but didn’t want to insult the old man who sat next to me on the sidewalk bench and had given me a wrapped hard candy . He kept on nodding that the bus would be coming soon and motioning for me to just sit and wait . A bus came and he smiled letting me know this was the bus to Gita , my village . I got on and saw that I was headed right back to Stara Zagora as I noticed the turn off dirt road to Gita . I yelled , “Gita ! Gita! Stop , stop “! … so I was dropped off and I knew that it was about an 8 mile walk …. the sun was still shining near the horizon but it would set within an hour and there are no street lights . The valley was very quiet and ……..
…….to be continued
And so for LIFE , this beautiful life , I remain so grateful . And when the difficulties of our human existence arise , may we seek the light that abides within us and choose to Love , not only others , but ourselves . For it is then that new choices appear and become possibilities and we can act on them …..