It really is a place that seethes with life. Not just the thousands of camera-toting, sunblock-applying, child-chasing, photo-opping, cell phone-chatting humans around you. You are really catapulted into the past. You walk the same marble sidewalks as people thousands of years ago. You are under the same hard cerulean sky. Your eyes hurt from looking at so many beautiful things. Every time you turn a corner something more incredible awaits you. You think, "Well nothing can be better than this!" and then you turn the corner and see Trajan's Gate, or the Celsus Library, or the Agora Gate. It is hard to believe that one can see so much and still remain standing.
Turkey is essentially an open air museum of culture from major periods. It's truly astounding to be here and to see these things. The thing of it is that there is a strong presence of the Republic here. You go into Epheseus and the two things that greet you are the Turkish flag and a picture of Ataturk. You realize that you are in an Islamic country (secular, true, but you do hear that call to prayer, don't you?), that is the custodian of places sacred to the Christian, Pagan and Antique. The Turks are clear on this: every sign says that this place is being maintained by the Republic. It is a really interesting way to diminish the power of what you are seeing. Even our tour guide sort of made fun of us for coming all this way to see stones. I said to him, "Omer of course you must think it is beautiful." He smiled and said that they are just stones but "these stones, unlike the ones we will leave, tell of the history, the personality and the mythology of a people." I wonder what people will think of the ruins of the Trump Taj Mahal?
We saw the House of the Virgin Mary today. Strange being there. I went through quickly and was going to make my way back to the bus. Then I started to think about my Mother and how she would have loved to see the house and how happy it would have made her. So I went back and got in line to see it again. I was going to light a candle for her, but I felt very awkward and stupid buying one, as if I was trying to look like a pilgrim. There was a Christian Turkish woman and her children and she was explaining things. I sat in a chair in back on one side of the door. On the other side was a friar (a Franciscan I think from the robe). He looked at me and nodded and I sat on the straw seat of the chair.
I miss my mother desperately. I wish I could have brought her with me on this trip instead of bringing her memory and half of her DNA. I tried to say a prayer, but it all felt rote and stupid, like I was trying to prove that I could. So I just sat there and thought about my Mother in the house of Jesus's mother and started to cry a little. It never really leaves you, you know. It just gets smaller and more intense, like a mushroom cloud inside of that tiny silver ball. She would have really loved being there so it was the least I could do to sit there and be a little uncomfortable and miss her with my whole heart.