CATT Galaxidi, 4--Delphi
Day three dawns and it's time for the group to visit Delphi. Earlier in the week I didn’t know if we would be able to do it, given the costs and the fact that it was something extra in the programme, but both Depi and I are excited about introducing the group to the power and mystique of the site and the possibilities for personal revelation that it would offer. After Virginia has somehow managed to find enough cars to eliminate the transport cost I decide to pay for a tour guide to maximise the experience. Virginia gets a deal on that, too. Of all the emotional eruptions and hand-holding I am doing this week, Virginia, who was a mess prior to the beginning of the week, has proved to be dependable, assertive and has anticipated problems brilliantly.
After breakfast—Panos, still sulking, has refused to make us lunches for Delphi from the food we have paid for—we head off the 40 kilometres or so to the side of Mount Parnassus and the scorched earth of the extensive Delphi site. We go first to the ancient Gymnasium, which Depi and I scoped out on our way up on Sunday. She chooses a perfect site far away from the sentinels (who are probably half-fried in their small white towers) and takes the group through a meditative preparation for their day at the site. It's quite breathtaking to observe.
Few of the group have the time to visit the Temple of Athena Pronaia, the other free site at Delphi, which is a shame, as it’s the oldest of the areas and served as the entrance to ancient Delphi (hence “pronaia”). With the heat coming down on us in waves, it’s imperative to get the group into the archaeological site on time for the tour. We are greeted by Penny, a friend of Virginia’s from her travel-tour days, and she immediately has everyone’s attention: not conventionally good-looking, she has incredible charisma. Both women and men find her sexy. I find myself flattered that she keeps referencing me. It’s a good deal for all involved. We are a much more engaged and focused group than she customarily works with, so she customises her delivery to include incredible detail on the votive and theatrical elements of the site, speaking from a stair she commandeers above the Temple of Apollo for our private use.
It’s an awe-inspiring place, built in layers on a steep hillside. At the bottom are treasuries which contained gifts from various city states, designed, as Penny notes, not only as gifts to the god but to advertise the wealth and strength of the donor state. The Temple of Apollo lies in the middle of the hill, where citizens (or more typically their representatives) came to ask guidance of the god. The oracle spoke through a human, generally a woman, who served as an intermediary, or a medium of you like, for the words of the god. I’ve asked each of the participants to find a question about their futures which they can ask at the Temple. Depi has assigned them a task, as well.
Above the Temple is the amphitheatre, smallish by ancient Greek standards. It held around 5000 people both before and after the Romans came along and added concrete seating, which probably had the effect of making the amphitheatre more monumental but rather less comfortable. Like every ancient amphitheatre I’ve visited (four), it generates immense power from the simple grace and grandeur of its shape and its relationship with the natural surroundings. Delphi was never a city state, so its theatre was less frequently used, at least for theatrical performance; but the placement of the site, against a backdrop looking out over valleys to distant mountains, is exceptional.
Above the amphitheatre is the stadium. Fewer tourists make it all the way up here, and the guard looks bored and inattentive. Alex and Kat and I are the only ones to take a look. It’s in the shape of the classic Greek running track, with rows of stone seats, now unused and fenced off. Below one can see the descending levels of ancient belief; the theatre, Apollo’s Temple, and below these, the Gymnasium and the Temple of Athena. I’ve spent the time since our tour ended with Kat and Alex, reinforcing for me how dear they are to me. This is ironic given what occurs later in the day, but no less true for that.
In an ideal world everyone would head for the museum to see the fantastic collection taken from site to protect it from the aggressively deteriorating effects of the wind and the sun, but with the beach beckoning, the group heads off back to Galaxidi. I ask Apollo my question in front of the temple: What should I do with rest of my life? Words appear in my head. Four walls will bind you. They are not as easy to interpret as they might initially appear.
At the beach the mysteries of the site are forgotten in favour of hedonism. It isn’t a great beach; it doesn’t need to be. The Gulf of Corinth proves as warm, clear and inviting as the Aegean from which it draws its sustenance. Janice steps on a sea urchin and rather than accepting help she spends the next hour, head bowed, picking out its spines.
At night we gather after dinner in the outdoor pavilion. I sit beside Depi as she guides the group through their experience at Delphi. It’s actually a lot more psychoanalytic than I anticipated or which I’m comfortable with, but it seems to be what the women in the group crave. It feels self-indulgent to me. I ask the group to share their questions and the Oracle’s response but no one volunteers, so I tell them about my question. Two of the participants use the opening as an excuse to voice personal attacks on me. That’s hurtful, of course, but what’s really important is that they stray so far outside the parameters of the exercise for their own gratification. Ego is crucial for an actor but it has to be used in a positive and controlled manner.
Afterwards I discuss this with Kat and Alex, looking for insights on what just occurred. These will not be immediately forthcoming, as it turns out both of them are feeling hurt by my inattention and my failure to give them meaningful responsibilities for the week. There’s some truth to this: Kat failed to respond to any of my contacts throughout the summer, Alex was marginally better, and I lost a certain amount of trust in them. Of course from their perspective I should have given them the benefit of the doubt. There are lots of tears and I am feeling as genuinely miserable as I have in months when Depi calls on my mobile. She is waiting to drive me back to town, anxious for her two hour daily de-briefing and to shower me with compliments and her personal revelations. Ramona is pestering me for a personal meeting, too. We have a history, dating back twenty years or so, which I have decided to ignore in favour of the present moment and my teaching. Alas, the present never occurs unattended by the past. I should know that by now. But I am feeling increasingly inadequate to handle all the venting and angst. When Kat and Alex and I finish talking it is near midnight. I tell them I love them both dearly, and I mean it.
I trudge glumly down the lightless road separating the compound from Galaxidi. Itinerant dogs begin to bark. One growls and jumps out at me. I growl back. Perfect, I think. So much for a day of revelation.