Last day on Crete. I want to synthesize this experience and wrap it up in some way, although I may need more time to fully process it.
The impetus for this trip was a pilgrimage of sorts, to one of the places with the best-documented evidence of ancient goddess worship. And it has been, in its own way – just not the one I expected.
Even with the little ones in tow, I made it to the sites I most wanted to see. I spent a couple of luxurious hours alone perusing the Heraklion Archeological Museum, while Tom and the kids headed to a nearby aquarium. As a family, we trekked to the Palace of Knossos, braving the heat and the crowds, and my husband continued to score points by keeping the kids distracted so I could listen to our tour guide explain what I was seeing.
After a visit to a local dinosaur theme park for the kids, we squeezed in a brief stop to Skotino Cave, where Minoan artifacts have been found and the Goddess Artemis was worshipped. Tom entertained the kids in the car while I sat just inside the cave entrance for a blessed five minutes alone before some other tourists appeared. Then he and I switched, and I made up stories for the kids about the magical land of Crete while he went to experience the cave himself.
Yesterday we drove out to the eastern tip of the island to see another Minoan site, Zakros Palace. It was completely deserted when we got there, so we wandered around the ruins alone, this time without a tour guide. I walked up some stone steps and sat for awhile, feeling wave after wave of unexpected sadness at the terrible loss that had occurred there, most likely from a devastating earthquake several thousand years earlier. Then I walked down, rejoined my family, and we headed to lunch near the beach.
This is what pilgrimage looks like with small children in tow. It is also apparently what I wanted. I didn’t want to go on this journey alone, and I didn’t want to wait a few more years until the kids were older and more independent. I wanted to do this now. In this way, I got the pilgrimage I needed, even if it doesn’t match the conventional image of one.
In her spiritual memoir Red, Hot and Holy, Sera Beak describes traveling to India to visit sites dedicated to the great Goddess Kali. She comes back a bit disappointed. When the experience of the DF moves out of the realm of personal experience, she says, it is inevitable that She will be tainted in some way by the patriarchal system we all operate within.
I’m not leaving Crete disappointed by any stretch, but I do feel like She has shown me that She does not live in museums and ancient ruins. Or, rather, that She does not live there alone – She is also present at the dinosaur theme park, and in the pool as my daughter becomes a stronger and stronger swimmer. She is present in these precious, stolen moments that I find myself alone, and all the moments that we, as a family, have soaked in the warmth and beauty and graciousness of Crete. She is – always – everywhere.