Encountering Hermes, On the Road in Greece by David Sheppard
From the author:Â This short essay describes a psychic experience I had while on an extended journey through Greece. The ancient Greeks viewed Hermes as the protector of travelers, but he was more than that. He was the complete existential experience. I seemed to lead a charmed existence during that journey, and when something did go wrong, it seemed to be for a reason.
Not many will go it alone in a foreign country, particularly if they canâ€™t speak the language. Still one day I found myself wrestling with plans for a ten-week odyssey about Greece, the mainland and islands. The longest Iâ€™d ever been on the road by myself was the week I spent motoring about Ireland a few years before. But I was pretty much a loner anyway, had been divorced for the past twelve years, my kids grown and off on their own. After making the decision, I hired a tutor and studied Modern Greek for four months. Had to learn a new alphabet. I bought a travel pack, combination suitcase and backpack, inside of which I stuffed clothes, toilet articles, etc.
I was on a spiritual quest, planning to look within myself while at the mythological sites, but not really expecting anything other than a good encounter with the country, its people and a peek at the archeology. I was particularly interested in Thebes, the land of Oedipus; Ithaca, the island of Odysseus; and the religious sites: Delphi, Patmos, whatever. I certainly didnâ€™t anticipate an encounter with an ancient Greek god.
The first week of October, while recouping from jet lag, I spent in Athens breathing car exhaust, sweating in the late-summer heat while traipsing about the Akropolis, the temple of Olympian Zeus and visiting the National Archaeological Museum. I spent four days in Thebes, which all the guidebooks told me to avoid, and fell in love with the little city on the hill where the ancient seven-gated Kadmia stood in Oedipusâ€™ day and even spent some time staring across the Aonion plain at the mountain of the Sphinx in the distance. But after a couple of days in Delphi at Apolloâ€™s temple, I had a problem that threatened to cut my trip short.
Not only was I lonely, but consciously disturbed at having two more months traveling before me. From the very beginning of my trip Iâ€™d had unusually-powerful dreams, where I longed for my family: my daughter who had run away from home years before but was now well-established in Atlanta, and my son who was a freelance illustrator in San Francisco. At Delphi, I dreamed of my own death and argued with God about my divorce, woke crying. Not long before leaving for Greece, Iâ€™d finished five years of psychotherapy and unaccountably lost my job in aerospace. For the past thirty years Iâ€™d been an astronautical engineer, and getting laid off was a serious blow. But since I was also a writer, Iâ€™d taken the free time as a blessing. Now, seven thousand miles from home, and alone, I was in trouble.