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Monday, February 05, 2007

The Nature of Cyprus

Cyprus coast, Karpaz rangeThe Cyprus coastline, where mountain and sea meet, runs as hypnotic and mobile as a sand snake. Jutting rocks and coves lined up one after the other resemble trinkets of pure gold on a beautiful neck.

Where the sea ends the sands begin, and where the sands end olive trees stretch out as far as the eye can see. Olive groves carry the special characteristics of its local people. Its tree is slender, but stands tall towards the sky providing a wide canopy of shade.

The trees are used for other purposes than simply harvesting its olive. For example, it's good shelter for those trying to hide from the August heat. With wide branches spreading out in all directions, it protects bodies burning up from the sun. At any time of the day, under any olive tree, it's possible to come across someone sleeping, resting or having a picnic. Weary from the suffocating heat, people are rejuvenated on entering its shade. It's as though the olive's life elixir pours over them. The searing heat dissipates.

Olive leaves have their own mythos, too. For centuries its dark green leaves have symbolised peace. A handful of olive branches is offered when wanting to make and cement peace. When a dove returned with an olive branch in its beak to Noah's mystical ark, it was a sign of good news that all existence had been saved. A harbringer of life, today the olive branch is used as incense to symbolise love, peace and happiness - in short it is incense burnt for life itself.

Five Finger Mountains, KyreniaParallel with the sea, the olive groves that spread out as far as the eye can see end at the intersection with the skirts of the mountains. They give way to the fir, wild carob and other trees of the forest. With these trees the statuesque mountains rise. The sea reflecting every shade of blue in its mirror, coasts that run as hypnotic and mobile as a sand snake and magnificent high rising mountains; watching this divine panorama painted by an imaginary artist's hand creates an inner tingling sensation that makes the body's hairs stand on end.

Now imagine, like white pearls randomly yet tidily scattered on the jutting rocks along the coastline by some mysterious hand, white temples completing the scene. Such places of worship, built some centuries ago and set on the island's coastline, often resemble pure white pearls that glitter on points of the jutting rocks that reach towards the shore. It may possibly sound like a poet's exaggerated nonsense, but from a distance, these temples really do look like precious stones sieved from the sea.

The temples give the island its distinctiveness. Paying homage to three world religions, temples seem to sit peacefully side by side. At the accorded times the faithful come to pray. With fervent hands, prayers in Arabic, Latin and Hebrew whisperingly rise upwards to where the believers imagine God to be. Without tiring, faithful lips murmur. Sounds, prayers and chants merge. Sometimes laughter from those giving their bodies up to the bright yellow arms of the sun, by resting on the golden sands of the rocks, mix with the prayers.

This unique mix, to those listening from afar, is the sweet hum of a beautiful symphony. This hum is the authentic echo of life's varied colours and sounds. It's the echo of a unity that has lasted for centuries.

Winter is beautiful here, also. Though to be honest it's more accurate to say spring rather than winter. The rain after the summer brings the greenery of spring. After emptying its load the rain usually gives way to a friendly sun that disperses the melancholy air created by the quiet drizzle. And damp and cleansed by the rain, all the creatures nature harbours jump out into the open to dry.

Birds sing at their best now. The bees and butterflies are courting flowers of all colours. And amongst such beauty, people come to taste the joys of living.

But there are also times when dark clouds take command of the sky. And then, watch out. Brewed at sea, the storm explodes on the coastline. Great waves crazily beat up the shore. The wind howls as though it has gone mad, just like it wants to gather up everything up and take it with it. It's true that such storms do not last long. It leaves possibly for something better to take its place, but that doesn't stop it from smashing branches laden with the best fruit. I imagine an olive branch with shoots yet to grow falling in exile to the ground, unmoving. Until another shoot grows in the place of those fallen.

Often my thoughts turn from coastal to human nature, and I can't help wondering if my island home will ever see its green shoots of peace grow again. Or whether new olive groves will grow in the places of those felled in dark storms from - not imaginary - but all too human hands.

And I realise, with more than a little irony, that in the coastline's very nature is the nature of Cyprus itself.

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