A Light in the Darkness

December 3, 2005

I slept in today, and lazed around in bed for a couple of hours with a pitcher of water and this book – Grace and Grit by Ken Wilber. Maria-Elena loaned it to me and it is good. The timing was good, as always.

But I slept in today, and therefore missed the last hike of the term – just a brief jaunt to Levkes and the Sanctum, and lunch at Flora’s. It reminded me though that I hadn’t yet written about the last hike we went on, to the Marathi marble quarries.

Two weeks ago, John took us to Marathi. The bus left us at the end of a sparkling white marble brick road, which curved enticingly up into a hillside, then promptly stopped. “EU money ran out” John explained. Still, the wet marble road shining in the early morning was quite magical, quite a lovely start to this little journey into the belly of the island.

This is the site of the ancient quarry, which was used for two thousand years, until 150 years ago when the Belgians decided that all the best white marble was done for, and the quarry was closed and left to dissipate in the sun. Marble forms rust in the sun, I found out. Iron oxide darkening the white face of the island. We slipped and stumbled down a path around a hill, into a hole carved in the side of the mountain, and collected ourselves just inside the cave entrance. John passed out flashlights – mine worked for a few seconds, then the lightbulb blew out. I have been known to have that effect. I was glad for it – I wanted my hands free to explore the smooth interior of the cave, to catch myself if I slid too far on the gravel.

We agreed to move in silence, stopping at various points in the series of tunnels in the center of the island where John would explain a little bit about the ancient quarrying techniques or tell us a story about the caves. Parian marble is famous, as I have mentioned before, but I thought it was the purity of its color – there is something else about it, which I will get to in a minute.

“Have any of you heard of Noguchi?” John asked, as we stood paused at a junction between three tunnels. I was engrossed in some Greek graffiti on the wall dated 1861. I looked toward John – the name rang a bell.

“About twenty years ago, Noguchi came to Paros – he had always wanted to scope out true Parian marble for some of his works. By the time he managed to make it here, he was well into his seventies. I met him in the caves and took him deep into the tunnels where he found his rock and sat with it for awhile and meditated.”

Later in the hike, he showed us Noguchi’s marble. Before we got that far into the quarry, however, he stopped us at another little junction, gathered us around, and had us turn off our flashlights and sit in silence. This marbe doesn’t resonate – when we all sat together in silence, there was no sound of breathing or shuffling, there was just darkness and warm silence and not a single echo of movement. Then John spoke again.

“Can you all look toward me? Look to where you think I am sitting in the dark.”

I opened my eyes and looked in the direction of his voice, and suddenly a warm glow erupted into the cave. John was holding a large piece of marble over his flashlight, and the light was shining right through it. It wasn’t enough light to illuminate our faces, but the entire rock was glowing. I was breathless. No echo, this weird transfusion of light, the strange warmth of the walls – what substance is this that surrounds us?

  • CATEGORY: Greece

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