New Life from Ruins

We arrived at Milos two days ago. This island captivates me by the natural beauty of her sea caves and salt-worn cliffs against the clear azure water. Milos’ caves and cliffs are formed from the constant raking of the elements against the soil and rock rich in minerals. I’m so drawn to this land. Perhaps it’s because its beauty is raw and unadorned and unapologetic. The earth stands firm against the incessant pounding of the sea, yet instead of fully yielding it rewrites itself. The landscape is constantly being transformed based on the pressures of the wind and surf and salt, but it never loses its unmistakable identity.

I feel an irresistible pull to this land, this country of my birth. Each time I revisit a familiar place I notice something new- a beach that used to be sandy now is strewn with boulders that toppled over from the cliffs at some point during my absence. A well-worn path is now covered by aromatic herbs. Yet this new landscape is no less beautiful than the one I remember.

Perhaps change is the only constant.

Santorini used to be a typical round island (named Strogili, or “round”) until a powerful earthquake triggered the eruption of the volcano at its center thousands of years ago, completely destroying the landscape, killing its citizens and forming the unique dramatic cliffs that now draw visitors from all over the world.

Curiously it is just these devastating disruptions and “imperfections“ that ignite our imaginations and entice us to explore these islands and their dramatic nooks and crannies.

This has me thinking about how I’ve been rewriting my present after my own recent core-shuddering earthquake. The last two years have not gone the way I envisioned. The stressors of emergency medicine and my father’s failing health have been my wind and surf and salt, and the dissolution of my marriage has been my volcanic eruption. These pressures have either slowly been scraping away my protective layers to leave me raw and sometimes shaken, or have completely cracked me open in the blink of an eye. “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in,” sings Leonard Cohen. I now see that it’s that, but also much more. The fracturing apart does not only serve to let light and love in; it allows the inner joy to emanate out. We can see these pressures and changes as devastating losses, or we can see them as transformational events that help shape our lives and identities moving forward. I am choosing the latter. I hope that when great change comes to your own shores, you do too.

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