Yesterday was my birthday. We drove up into the mountains and it felt like we were driving into the clouds.
The girls rode horses with bridles that were decorated with colour and ribbon, brim-full with happiness.
We ate golden halloumi, warmed pitta which we loaded with tangy tahini and creamy, fresh tzatziki. The sun wasn’t shining that day, and that was ok- we bought honeyed cashew nuts that warmed our hands through the paper bag, and we walked through silent black pine forests tucked up under the wing of Mount Olympus.
The girls picked ladybugs and we hugged the trunks of trees five centuries old.
We drove home just before sunset; and that’s when we found a dollhouse at the side of the road.
Climbing out of the car, we found dozens of them; little houses, embedded into the rock and hanging everywhere the eye could see. They were rough, imperfect; but exquisite all the same; who had made them we wondered, where did they come from?
We chose our favourites and marvelled at the gates which opened into nothing but the solid stone wall- like another day you might come past and behind the doorway would be the Narnia of your dreams. But only rock today.
Until voices came from above, as we were leaving; I hurriedly looked up and waved and all of a sudden felt like we were trespassing. The houses were by the side of the road and for anyone to see – but I felt somehow like were intruding on the peace of the house perched on the rock, high high above us.
My father made these
and he descended down to us, through his three levels of overgrown garden.
His father was evicted from his home in Northern Cyprus, ten years before the Turkish Invasion in the seventies. He didn’t say so, but I expect these were the early Turkish settlers I’d read about, given money and promised houses by Turkey if they would go – in preparation of their later military action.
Three times he went back, Ben told us, and three times he was forced to leave.
These houses… are his memories of the houses in his old village.
The mountain air was warm as I marvelled at the memories and roots of a life. I thought of how we take our homes and our memories with us. I thought about how I hope memories of this island will come with me to France in the same way. I thought about California.
My father died two and a half years ago, Ben told us, and he took us, in typical Cypriot welcoming style, upstairs and through his gardens and into and around the old stone village house. The stone fireplace, the vintage photographs, the bare floor and the single beds draped in knitted and bright striped throws. Remnants of a life loved and lived. The sun was setting and rich over the mountaintops, and the girls played in and around more houses, their delighted shouts filling the air.
He and his friends showed us the fig trees old and full, the lemon boughs, and I saw the twisting of the trunks of olive trees. They were old, too. They cut open the fruits of cactus for us to all share together, and we did, peach/apple tinges on my tongue; the cactus juice dripping from my hands, gathering together, a group of strangers, sharing memories and stories and smiles.
I wished I had something to thank him with, for sharing his memories with us, but he said – no, thank you; for allowing me to share the memories of my father.
We left, driving down the windy roads of the Troodos mountains as twilight fell around us; I wondered about all I’d just learned of art and of life and of living.
I wondered whether his father had taken his village memories with him, or whether he was there now, in a place now so changed. I dreamed of him sat outside watching the sunset over mountains. And somewhere inside I felt thankful, that this man had dedicated years of creating these memories, for the world to see.
No promise of riches, or fame, or glory.
Just because it was something that poured through him, something he felt called to create.
And I hoped we too, could live this way; making dollhouses out of adversity. Crafting it together again to make it wonderful once more.
Not perfect, but entirely wonderful, and magical; just as it always was.
Today my wish for you is that you find the beauty in the mountains.
With love xo