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Spirit Story

A globetrotter's home truth

By Janie Robinson

I went to the one-room Vasey school, sang in the choir at Vasey United Church, played softball at Vasey Park and rode my 10-speed bike along Vasey’s country roads. For me, Vasey was home, and I couldn’t have imagined living anywhere else.

Now, many years later, I explore the world as a travel journalist. My husband, who’s a teacher, and I have lived in four different countries so far.

No matter how far I stray from my rural Ontario roots, I still need the “love thy neighbour” embrace of the place where I grew up. I think I subconsciously seek it as I wander the world — that safe sense of community and belonging that feels like home.

Last Easter, I was far from home again, in the lovely little village of Skouloufia, in northwestern Crete, a guest of villa operator Stelios Kaligiannis and his family. Waking up to snow-capped mountains towering over carpets of silver-green olive groves, I spent Good Friday exploring the island countryside, gazing down at amazing Mediterranean sea views, visiting picturesque villages and meeting local farmers.

I can speak almost no Greek other than yassas, which conveniently means both “hello” and “goodbye.” But the people I met that day were more than happy to converse with hand gestures.

A farmer offered a taste of still-warm goat’s milk from a barrel strapped to his donkey. In the mountain village of Axos, a visit to a weaver ended with a huge smile, a hug, a kiss on both cheeks and a gift — one of her own colourful hand-woven bags. One man showed me wild asparagus and plucked some wild oregano for me from the rocks by the side of the road. An encounter with another man, ancient and wrinkled, astride his donkey on a mountain trail was like an encounter with the past.

I felt embraced by these people, as I do by the people at home.

That night at midnight, I lit a candle and joined Stelios and his family and neighbours for the procession of the Epitaphios of Christ. This ritual lament (similar to one that has survived from Homeric times) mourns the death of Christ on the cross.

The Epitaphios, a large piece of cloth embroidered with the image of Christ’s body, had been placed in an elaborately carved wooden bier — a symbolic coffin — which was then lovingly decorated in white, red and purple spring flowers, sprinkled with fragrant rosewater and gently raised up on poles for the solemn procession through the village.

Our walk behind the colourful coffin flowed gently along the narrow winding streets, the priest stopping to bless and greet neighbours who welcomed us in return with wafting incense and rosewater mists.

Though it was Good Friday, the procession reminded me of the Christmas Eve candlelight service back home in Vasey. I was filled with the same sense of peace and contentment, the same sense of belonging.

Did I miss being home for Easter with my mom, family and friends? Of course. Home is where the heart is, and I’ll always be a Vasey girl, wherever this wanderlust life takes me.

But on that Good Friday in Skouloufia, I learned something important about myself and my world. However far and wide you may stray, you can always find the warmth and welcome of home. There is something holy about that.  

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