Lessons Learned After The Greek Sun Sets: Part 2, The Church

Sometime in the Spring of 2017, I had a dream. It was the kind of dream that leaves you feeling like a different person when you wake up, as if the vastness of life grew hands and rung you out, the old and overused bits of you dripping down its arms, and then hung you out to dry to be worn again but by a different being. It was the kind of dream that feels like a minute alteration to the rest of your waking life:

I was in a truck, driving along a cliff edge. The truck came to a church that seemed to be a part of the cliff. The front edge of the church appeared to have almost grown directly out of the earth, as if half of the church had been swallowed by the earth wall. I sensed two beings with me in the truck and, without words, they encouraged me to go inside the church which I reluctantly did. Although the church appeared small from the outside, its interior was an endless space of bright light. No floor, no ceiling. The space was filled with these floating faceless entities that I will call spirits (for lack of a better term). There were hundreds of them, glowing with a yellowish light and floating around me. It was very beautiful, but I was instantly terrified. Even though these spirits were shining with bright light and much better groomed, I felt like I had just walked into “the lost souls room” from Beetlejuice, which is a place I never thought I would be, even in a dream. The two beings that had accompanied me in the truck encouraged me to not be afraid and to greet the spirits. When I had decided to be vulnerable, I opened my arms wide, welcoming the spirits into them as if they were old friends. I was no longer scared. It is difficult to put this into words, but the spirits began to merge with me as I felt my body fill with light and began to vibrate at an inexplainable frequency. I felt fearless and scared at the same time. I felt joyous, complete, and understood. Suddenly, I woke up. 

This last part of the dream–the light and vibrations–is something I had experienced before in a handful of other dreams over the years, ones which have all made an impact on me and all end in this same feeling of unprecedented vulnerability, an charge of light, and an increase in unwavering vibration. Even so, I tucked the memory of this dream in my pocket to revisit, further analyze, and bare to others who ask me “What is the craziest dream you’ve ever had?”

The main focus of this post, however, is not this dream (although it does play a crucial role). In actuality, this is a story of another perfect night. It’s also another story of acceptance, or at least the process of it (Stay with me here, I promise I didn’t copy and paste this entire post from Part 1, just the opening lines). Let’s fast forward from the night at Sarakiniko Beach to the night before my best friend Simran and I were scheduled to fly out of Greece and continue our European adventure in Italy. I had just woken up from a much needed nap to make up for the sleep lost the night before which we had spent dancing like dorks in a deserted bar until the sun rose. A small amount of daylight remained in the sky as we climbed into Rhiannon’s tiny car to head to our destination. Rhonda, who was driving, had already taken one crammed carload of people to the head of the trail located in a remote area of Syros island. The entire group was holding back excitement because (thanks to an idea birthed by Rhiannon)we had planned a surprise anniversary party for Zach and Kori. It would be their 6th year anniversary in 3 days (the same day as my birthday), and we wanted to celebrate it as it would be our last night together in Greece. Rhonda and Rhiannon (our friends, tour guides, and translators) spent a large portion of the day tirelessly running errands to make sure they had all of the supplies and food ready for the surprise anniversary party (shout out to this mother-daughter duo for working so hard). The first portion of our group had already arrived at the trailhead, hiked down, and was working to set up a perfect surprise party for Zach and Kori as Rhonda drove back to retrieve the remainders (which strategically included Zach, Kori, Z, and myself).

As we drove to the trailhead, I was careful with my language. I didn’t want to say something that might give away the secret to our celebrated couple. Because I wasn’t a part of the errand running, I felt a little out of the loop as to the specifics of where we were going and what to expect. In my head, we were going to a beach to have a night of fire-roasting and swimming similar to our night in Sarakiniko (See Part 1). Our second carload of people began to descend the trail as the sun was slowly setting.

img_9083

View from the trailhead by Simran Dabir

The large rocks and switchbacks of the trail made it vital to be intentional with our footing and we resorted to our phone flashlights as the sun slipped away from us. As we finally made it to sea level, we began to hear music and voices. The last bend faded away and our destination was finally revealed. The acoustic music echoed off the rock walls, affirming to our aural sense what our visual had already concluded: the trail had led us along a coastal cliff into a massive, wide-mouth, cave filled with glimmering light. We saw our friends looking up at us from a man-built terrace painted the telltale white of Greece. The edge of the terrace as well as each row of pews which occupied most of the terrace space were covered with tiny, thin lit candles that had been perfectly placed evenly apart by the rest of the group.img_7283

g60

Simran lighting candles by Michael Holdereed

Behind us all, stood a one-room white church that had actually been built into the inside of the cave, the cave corner serving as the roof and two of the church’s walls. As if to mimic the glow of the rest of the cave, the church’s tiny window and doorway also emanated candlelight.

g63

Group sitting in front of the church by Michael Holderreed

Now, I want to pause for a moment to talk about this infamous “cave church”. First off, I want to point out that I had heard of this church before, but I did not realize that the surprise anniversary party would be held here. I had erroneously believed that it was a destination we would get to by boat, thus ruling out (in my mind) the cave church when I learned that we would be driving to a trailhead. I first heard about this church a few months before our trip when some of us had met up to discuss our future Greece vacation. Rhonda, who had lived in Greece for many years and knew her stuff, was telling us about her favorite places and began describing this place, known only by locals and those who discovered it by boat, where a small church was built directly into the side of a rocky cliff-face and sheltered by a cave. I immediately had a deep feeling of knowing and over-excitedly yelled, “I HAVE DREAMT OF THIS CHURCH!” I preceded to describe my dream to the group, only partially worried about sounded like a nut-job, but mostly just overjoyed with this intense longing to go to this church she spoke of which I had visited a year before in an unforgettable dream.

So, on the night of the surprise party, as we rounded the corner and found ourselves inside of a cave looking at this church surrounded by candles. I was indeed, surprised. As were, of course, the happy couple Zach and Kori. We all yelled “Happy Anniversary!” and someone placed a beautiful crown of flowers on Kori’s head and a tie around Zach’s neck. The couple looked around in pure disbelief and I saw tears in Zach’s eyes.

g55

Zach and Kori react to the surprise by Michael Holderreed

g58

Megan makes sure Zach looks snazzy by Michael Holderreed

g57

Zach and Kori signing the book inside the church by Michael Holderreed

Little did I know, that the rest of the group had also planned to make this a dual birthday party for myself as well! Simran told me to close my eyes and placed a gift in my hands. As I opened my eyes I found the most beautiful little instrument I had ever seen.

100_2431

The mini baglama

100_2425

Baglama size in comparison to my cat

This mini baglama (an instrument common in Greece) had a tiny rounded body that looked as if it were made from a gourd and a small, skinny neck that seemed so delicate I was afraid to handle it. Tears began streaming down my face instantly as I held this tiny gift and became overwhelmed with gratitude.”This gift was all thanks to Rhonda,” Simran said as we embraced through my tears. I cried, “Thank you, thank you!”, at a loss for any other words. Rhonda then put her arms around me and held my face in her hands and said, “You are loved.”

And it was that simple. I was loved. And not only because my friends had done something beyond kind and selfless for Zach, and Kori, and I. Not only because there was verbal acknowledgment of affection.

g56

Me laughing by Michael Holderreed

More than any of that, I felt loved because I had spent 10 days on a small boat maneuvering a limited space with the same 10 people, and throughout that time, we had made it a safe, unbreakable home. Throughout that time, we all had our own personal struggles, some voiced and others not, and we gave space for those struggles whenever needed. We became our own Neolithic tribe, relying on each other as if no one else existed or ever would.

As the night went on and bats circled above our heads stuffing themselves with cave insects, we continued our celebration. We ate a magnificent, still-warm dinner that the group had carried down from the trailhead. They sang “Happy Birthday” and brought out a cake that they had made just for the occasion. Leah and Zach played acoustic guitar

g59

Meagan in candlelight by Michael Holderreed

and sang songs that gave us all goosebumps as we chimed in and our voices echoed off the cave walls. All the while, I thought of my dream I had had a year earlier about the church built into a cliff. I thought of that scary feeling of vulnerability when I opened my arms and how it led to a thrilling joy. I thought of my lucid decision to decide the spirits were not my enemies, and wondered how on earth my subconscious mind could speak in such earth-shaking, reality-bending metaphors.

img_20180704_214439

View of the cave opening from the pews by Andrew Utz

And sitting in Greece at this secluded church, miles away from anyone else, sheltered by the overhang of earth above us and at the same time completely open to the sea before us, I knew there was something sacred about this place and about the sharing of this moment. In contrast to the night at Sarakiniko Beach which taught me that sometimes I need to let myself feel pain regardless of the beauty surrounding me, this night reminded me to let myself feel joy, to walk in to a crowded room with open arms and be vulnerable. To unclench my jaw and relax my shoulders when reaching for a hug. To gratefully accept love that is given.

I want to extend a special thank you to all of my yacht babes for sharing this wonderful journey and making it an unforgettable life-altering few days: Rhonda, Rhiannon, Meagan, Andrew, Zach, Kori, Michael, Z, Leah, and Simran. I love you all and can’t thank you enough. There is no one else I would rather ride a dingy through unsettled waters with.

-JF

img_9056

2 thoughts on “Lessons Learned After The Greek Sun Sets: Part 2, The Church

    • Aw thank you so much Nichole! Your words warm my heart! I’m so glad I got to see you at the picnic this year, it was so great to catch up! 💜

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s