Monday, 29 October 2007

STEPH Zaton to Dubrovnik 27/10/07

Today I do what pilgrims do best – accept the simplicity of the hand dealt to me with patience and goodwill. Which on this particular morning takes the form of standing in the rain for two hours waiting for a bus.

These days I allow myself to be two people: one who loves the physical actuality of life on Earth, walking the turning seasons beneath rising moons and setting suns, exhilarating in the challenge of the mountains by day and sleeping on the ground by night; the other who loves to lie in the old groves, fresh dates and cheese and chocolate beside her, reading or writing a good book in the gentle sunshine.

After yesterday’s fabulous display of resistance, there was nothing else to do this morning but let the one who likes to rest and ponder take the bus.

We were only 6kms from Dubrovnik. Ben walked and I, eventually, rode the bus around Adriatica’s eastern shoreline into a sweet and contented township that for centuries has stood right where she is, surefooted and strong.

Everyone says Dubrovnik is a beautiful city – and everyone is right.

We have a room in a big pink house overlooking the old fortress, the ocean below still pounding the walls after all these years.

It’s great to be still, to know that for two days we’re not going anywhere. Having a room is like finding childcare for the packs – we get to walk alone in the city.

Dubrovnik is the last of our known world, until we reach Istanbul. From here we are well and truly in the unknown. Croatia is now familiar territory, no longer an edgy doorway to darkness . . . welcoming, not frightening . . . or perhaps Dubrovnik is my lighthouse in a coming storm . . . as within, so without.

Now and then my mind still tumbles with non-sensical conundrums about identity . . . about yesterday Yugoslavia and today nations that I, daughter of the new world, have never heard of (relatively speaking) . . . about a personal resistance to Yugoslavia and, embarrassingly, a softening embrace for the more exotic Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Bosnia (stretching it) . . . shadowed each and every one by humanity’s capacity for darkness and division and good neighbourly murder . . .

I have seen only one landmined child, a girl with plastic legs way up north in Zadar . . . she looked to me like she was on holidays with her parents and her brother . . . then again, what do I know, daughter of another world.

I wonder if a visit to other splintering blocs and hostile-pact nations would have had this effect on me . . . there is something about Yugoslavia, new-Australian at a formative time of my life, legendary betrayals and nervous friendships, a timeless hall of mirrors of perceptions, assumptions and suspicions . . . whose stories are they anyway? . . . that has worked its way into my bones . . . old curiosities and resentments playing out on Adriatica’s darker shore . . . them and us . . . dare I whisper the word . . . barbarians . . . which them, which us . . . which lifetime? . . . as within, so without.

I think of Mira at the Rosabel Hotel in Medugorje. Mira who is the wind. Mira and her husband Nikola, whose children (according to the fingers on my hand) must have been born into the war. Mira and Nikola who run a hotel but whose business is Love.


I never did ask her about her life. To do so would be like catching the wind . . . once you have it captured, you no longer have the wind. Yet the breeze and the gale-potential that is Mira will stop for Love.

For the love of Mary. For the love of a child. For the love of meeting the miracle in another.

In Medugorje, among a sea of Catholic hearts and minds, unified in their devotion to Mary, mother of Jesus, I witnessed humanity’s one common thread: we worship goodness.

Even the ungood worship goodness.

And nearly all of us, regardless of the values we hold, will pay homage to life.

And most of us will seek comfort, for the heart and for the spirit, from the all that is or God, by any other name.

In Herzegovina I learned that kindness is more than being nice.

It is to Mira I bow my head in gratitude for this teaching.

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