“525, 600 minutes…. How do you measure – measure a year?” Seasons of Love, Rent
I had read The Odyssey twice before and it was my book selection for Greece and Mt. Olympus because it was the original journeyman novel. When I was shopping in the Oia section of Santorini, Greece, I came across the most fabulous book store filled from floor to ceiling with old books and first editions. They had a copy of The Odyssey right out front and I decided to read it again.
In full honesty, I had not been a big fan of The Odyssey. I much preferred Homer’s other novel The Iliad about the Trojan War in which I more easily identified with the lead characters of Achilles and Hector. I felt Odysseus to be conceited and arrogant. He escapes the Cyclops and wisely tells him that he is No One. He could have made a clean get-away, but his pride reduces him to taunting the Cyclops by revealing his real name. The Cyclops father, Poseidon, then spends ten years inflicting on Odysseus anguish upon anguish. Odysseus loses all his men and ten years of his life.
Maybe it’s because I’m older now and have had my own weak moments that I can more easily sympathize with Odysseus on this reading. Three years ago, I had a bad day and in a weak moment I said one word, “Yes”, when asked a question about quitting something. I had no idea that one singular word, said without thinking, would have the kind of consequences it did on my life. I feel every bit as ravaged as Odysseus did going through his trials on the sea.
As much as my heart and mind have fought it, that fateful moment is almost certainly for the best. It was not the road I was supposed to follow. It would never, in the end, have made me happy. Like Odysseus, I have had to spend this time since stuck in limbo as on the island of Circe or traveling to Hades to find my way back.
The one thing about The Odyssey that I never could quite comprehend is why Odysseus had to kill all the suitors. They were certainly disrespectful sloths, but a death sentence seems heavy handed. I just keep thinking Odysseus, the war hero, could have walked back into his home and in an instant had Penelope and Telemachus by his side. I’m quite positive, whether it be by shame or fear, the suitors would have made reparations to Odysseus. But then Homer was the original storyteller and the bloodbath in the dining hall anticipated Tarantino by 7,000 years. And these are the same people who fought in a ten-year war because of Helen, who ran off from her Greek husband with Paris from Troy. There is a tendency for the dramatic.
I was often homesick on this first quarter of the trip and I wondered in reading this book how Odyssey got through the days during that ten-year absence. How did Penelope survive the heartache? There are so many moments in 365 days. I thought about all the ways that I could measure this year that would help bring meaning to all those days away from home and the life I was trying to rebuild. Here are some numbers that show what my first quarter of hiking peaks looked like:
Peaks – 10
Miles Hiked – 140
Feet in Elevation Gain – 59,116
Cities – 14
Countries – 8
Continents – 4
Hiking Days – 21
Flights – 21
Rental Cars/ATVs – 3
Hotel Rooms – 20
Refuges / Huts – 5
Currencies – 6
Trains/Buses – 6
Taxis/Vans/Shuttles – 48
Massages – 6
Guided Tours – 5
Most Dangerous Hikes – 3
Bucket List Items – 9
Miles Flown – 30,968
I’m not sure if these numbers mean anything, but they are fun to know. Stats help me feel a sense of control over my life which is very big and tough to contain right now. It helps me feel I was there.
I’m glad I took the time to read The Odyssey again because I gained a new appreciation for the genius of Homer and the suffering of the story’s hero. In this reading, I could look past the surface and more fully see the parable the story is meant to teach. We are all Odysseus. We all have the moments of weakness that cause inequitable anguish. In many ways, we spend our life on a journey trying to find home. I have a home. A good one. With more love than I could ever want. Yet, I’m still searching for that home within me, when the suitors are quiet and the pain extinguished, and my soul finds peace. May tomorrow lead me one step closer.