Touching the Past


(The Sacred Spring – Glanum, greek-roman settlement, St. Remy de Provence)
There is something mystical about walking through ancient ruins. At least, for me it is. It’s one thing to open a book and look at monuments, statues, and remnants of cultures long gone. It’s a totally different experience to visit such places, to be there.

The weather was on my side. A crisp, clear morning waiting for the sun to rise higher and start warming up the air. Not many people were about on this public holiday. Armed with my new pair of sun glasses, my trusted old Lumix, and heaps of time on my hands I was ready to be transported into the past.

Not a difficult feat standing at the beginning of what used to be the main street of a settlement that was started about 2600 years ago. I am sitting down on a boulder that used to be part of the entrance of a housing complex and closed my eyes to see better. In my mind the walls and buildings, ruins for Centuries, restored again became the back drop of life stories.

I could hear people talking, debating, whispering in a language I did not understand, but still held a fascination or me. I could see a woman filling a large ceramic container with water from a well. I could smell the evening meal simmering in a pot over a fire place.

A couple on a bench under a tree gasping in the throws of passion; a woman bending down attending to a sick child; men clad in white togas congregating in the forum to discuss politics or what’s needed for the welfare of the people; people worshipping Gods unknown to me, asking them for guidance; people preparing for war fare; people dying; houses falling to ruins.

Places like this show us the rise and fall of cultures, the ruthless passing of time, the impermanence of our dreams and creations. They are a reminder of how brief our visit is in this world. It’s humbling and my every day worries shrink into insignificance.

My walk took hours and every time I closed my eyes, I caught a glimpse of the life that was once lived here. Mistook the rustling of the leaves for the rustling of togas as people walked past. I am convinced, just because we can’t see them anymore, people (long) gone leave something tangible behind that is there for us to connect with when we close our eyes and open our minds.


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