My Powerful Memory of Disturbing the Gods

I was punished for stopping to pee

sculpture-3139547_1280 by marisa04 from pixabay

Describe a day that is an Everlasting Memory for you.

I have lived a full life, with a lot of exciting memories, so it was a challenge to choose a single one. When I recalled the time I disturbed the gods, I knew it was a perfect tale.

My adventure began when I enrolled in a field school at our local college in Canada.

The program included the opportunity to earn credits in anthropology, archaeology and travel writing.

Classes were to be held on the Greek island of Crete.

We attended a few meetings before we went, mainly covering the basics of travel and packing. Most of the students had never flown overseas and the instructors wanted to provide a bit of guidance. They also wanted to put a limit on the number of suitcases each student brought along.

After several days of travel, I arrived in the city of Heraklion on the island of Crete and reconnected with our group.

Crete is steeped in thousands of years of history and we were surrounded by the myths and legends of gods and goddesses. Many of their stories are linked to specific sites.

We had a full curriculum, with daily trips to archaeological sites and museums. Our evenings were spent working on class assignments.

We soon fell into a regular routine; up early to watch the sunrise, breakfast at the local cafe, then back to our rooms to get ready for the excursion of the day.

One day we went on a tour with two local guides. We were going to explore a sacred cave on Mount Ida, the highest mountain on Crete.

The Idaean Cave is on a steep slope near the top. According to the legend, this cave was the birthplace of Zeus. He was the sky and thunder god, one of the most well known gods of ancient Greece.

Here’s how the legend went:

A prophecy foretold that Kronos, a famous god, would be overthrown by his son, so he swallowed each son as soon as they were born.

His wife, Rhea, had enough of that so the next time she had a baby, she wrapped a stone in a baby’s blanket and let her husband swallow the stone instead. Then she hid the baby Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida.

When we arrived at the base of the mountain, we realized we were a bit ill equipped for hiking. Many of the students wore simple running shoes instead of proper boots. We were all in shorts, which made hiking through thick gorse bushes a treacherous feat.

As we climbed, the terrain changed quickly. We hiked through pine forests with slopes thick with dried pine needles. Then we picked our way through landslides of rocky shale. It was a bit slow going but the views were worth it. At several points we came across stone huts built by local herdsmen and the guides identified several sacred sites along the way.

Eventually, we arrived at the sacred cave. It was quite deep and undeveloped and I was grateful for the flashlight I had tucked into my backpack. We explored as far as our guides would allow and then returned to the surface for a picnic before beginning our climb down.

My friend Carmen and I hung back from the group, wanting some privacy for a quick pee. As soon as I returned to the ‘path’, I lost my footing and slipped.

In a classic snowboarder move, I put out my hand to break my fall and heard a pop.

My first thought was “I’ve angered the gods”. Then I thought about the long and difficult climb we had made to get to this point and wondered how in the h*ck am I was going to get down.

I sat reviewing the long and difficult hike ahead of me. I remembered our Search and Rescue operations in Canada, realizing the chances of a similar service here on Crete was remote. We were on our own in a foreign country, deep in the mountains and I was scared.

My friend pulled a scarf out of her pack and used a stick to create a makeshift splint. Many of the students quickly offered up painkillers, which I found a bit startling, considering where we were.

I looked up to see one of the local guides standing above me, looking concerned.

“I will be your wall,” he said.

“What?” I replied, resisting the urge to swear, which is my usual instinct when I’m in pain. “What did you say?”

“I will be your castle wall,” he replied, gesturing for me to stand.

And that’s what he did. He held out his arm and I took it, leaning hard.

We proceeded to climb down the mountain. He would take a single step and I would follow. One step at a time.

This sweaty Canadian girl held the arm of the good looking Greek guy, and we kept going, even when the others took a break. Two and a half hours later, we reached the buses.

We drove an hour to the nearest village clinic.

I was escorted into an exam room to wait for the doctor. When he arrived, he stopped in the doorway as he took in the sight. Two male instructors, two local guides and my husband; five men taking care of a single girl.

You could see him thinking — she must be a very important person for all these men to be so concerned.

He assessed the situation, spoke with the local guides and put a temporary splint on my wrist.

We offered to pay several times and they refused. It was a generous gesture of hospitality from people in a seriously underfunded medical system.

After we delivered the rest of the students to our hotel, we went to a private clinic where they took x-rays, confirmed the break and put on a traditional plaster cast.

It was the first bone I had ever broken and what a story I had to tell. It was an experience full of unexpected encounters.

In a single day, I had encountered a Greek God, and a Castle Wall.

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