Maria (Chapter 21 – Epilogue)
Posted by: Maria Atalanti
Published on: 23/01/2022Back to Blog
(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)
Nicosia, June 1927
Maria was sitting in the armchair of her office, thinking. It was her favourite place when she wanted to make decisions. It helped her sink into the inner layers of her mind and ponder the issues in a global way.
Kristian had already left to meet his colleagues on the mission, and her daughter with her family were travelling to Great Britain. She was alone again, but this time she knew that her loneliness was a brief respite, strengthening her expectations for Kristian’s return. Yes, this time life was different. She had a companion. She shared her dreams and problems with someone with whom she was united by love.
She remembered a year ago, when, as the aristocrat Lady Mary William Moore, had decided to leave London and luxurious life to search for her past. It was a great decision that she knew would lead her through unknown paths with dreaded results. But she dared to do so.
-Now I’m Maria Hubertus, she thought, looking at her wedding ring. But am I a “Hubertus”? She wondered. Who am I really? How do I feel? I am Maria. I may not have a surname because I don’t belong anywhere. I was born in Paphos and then wandered in the neighbourhoods of the world, leaving aside my true identity. Now that I have found it, I will keep it. I am Maria. I don’t know the last name of my real parents, so I’m just Maria. For the institutions of society, I will be Mrs. Maria Hubertus, but for me, I am simply Maria.
The fact that as soon as she got married to Kristian, he was forced to leave, was not particularly pleasant for both. So, they had decided, next time Maria would follow him and stay with him. The conditions would not be very comfortable, but she did not care. It took her long to find the man of her life, and they did not have many years to live together. They would make the best use of them.
Besides, she found his work very interesting and would like to know as much as she could about the history of Cyprus. It was for her a very exciting perspective. Their coexistence in the archaeological site hid a romance that suited them.
Of course, she had a book to write. She did not forget her promise to Eminé, nor her obligation to her teacher. The material at her disposal was rich and with the experiences that her daily life in Cyprus gave her, she possessed a treasure. Her role was to manage this treasure properly and create an attractive book, appealing for the reader and truthful. Her goal would be to preserve the memory of her teacher for years. It was the least she could do for him.
She had not decided yet whether to include her own biographical information in the book, or whether she would not betray her identity. She knew that she had an obligation to respect the memory of her English parents, as well. She owed them a lot. Perhaps it was only now that she understood how much she owed them. If her beloved teacher pulled her out of the misery, they maintain the vehicle that drove her up to here. She had to take their wishes very seriously.
In this circle of memories, her husband, Lord William Moore, appeared before her. She felt gratitude for this man also, even if he did not represent the ideal husband she had desired. With him, she did not live the closed life of an English lady. She had travelled to the end of the world and met other cultures and interesting people. William deserved her respect for what he was and for what he had offered her.
The journeys of memory in the past inevitably led her to Master Suleiman and to the life in which he condemned her with his greed, selfishness, and lawless desires. Her heart was empty of feelings for this man. It was as if she had suffered an accident, but as the years passed this accident was unworthy to remember. She could not say I forgive you, nor I do not hate you. A void was inside her.
She abandoned the journey in the past and let her mind wander to Paphos and the promise she had given to Eminé that she would visit her. They had discussed it with Kristian, and it was a priority for them to travel to Paphos at the first opportunity. Of course, they would have to secure the mission’s car first, because in Paphos there was no transportation, especially in the mountains. This visit had a sanctity for Maria and would not want it to be done like a hasty passage. She wanted to get to know the place and its people. Kristian’s presence would give her the strength to manage the emotion that would be arisen by the land where she was born and where her parents came from.
Her daughter and her son-in-law came to her mind. Alexandra could not have had a better chance than this wonderful man, James! He was so reasonable, so measured, so good husband and father. The only thorn was that they were far from her. But she hoped that soon Cyprus would have an air connection to London and could see them more often. And who could know? The paths of life are unexpected. One of them could probably lead them back here!
She smiled in doubt about this optimistic thought of hers and got up.
All this, of course, was her own desires and her own planning. She knew that other things people schedule and different events life presents them. By now, however, she had learned and realized that life scenarios are more interesting than people’s narrow-minded expectations. You need to have patience. Events do not come at the speed or in the way that we would like.
Up to now, she had gained both patience and trust. She was happy. She saw the course of her life unfold through bumpy paths and unexpected routes. But all this, along with her own determination, led her here. In her homeland. The appearance of Kristian in her life was a gift beyond her dreams and expectations. A bonus of life. He could fill in her weaknesses and colour her everyday life.
She went to a bookshelf and took the poetry collection of Kostis Palamas, “The Twelve Words of the Gypsy”. She used to read this poem often, and each time she found new meanings. It was so introspective, so lyrical. She thought that for Palamas to be able to write it, beyond the great inspiration and poetic skill, he had indulged in the deepest layers of human thought and intellectual ability. It was a masterpiece.
She opened the book at a point that she had always marked with a bookmark and read:
No matter how many mountains you climb,
from their peaks you will see other peaks
higher, another form of a seducer nature;
and even when you reach the highest peak,
you will understand again that you are,
like at the beginning, under all the stars.
That is how she felt right now. She had climbed to a peak of her life, but she knew that beyond the horizon she was awaited by other landscapes with unknown beauties, but also thorns that would make her legs bleed. This is the life of every human being, full of peaks and deep cliffs. Full of expectations, but also disappointments. But whatever would come, she would face it.
She read another excerpt from the Twelve words of the Gypsy. This gave her the strength to move forward in life, imperious and proud, as every human being deserves to be:
And I leaned towards my soul,
like at the end of a well,
And I cried to my soul
with the mind’s caw;
and from the deep well,
as if from a travel, foreign,
came back to me the voice
-You are the one, you are the incomparable,
You are the special,
Maria was left pondering the words she had read. She could hear the words sounding, as if they were coming out of a deep well, in reality. She identified herself for a moment and felt that she was the gypsy who was looking for his identity, initially rejecting all values and then restoring them. Perhaps now she had reached the end of the search. Perhaps her life at this stage could be a chapter that closes with the phrase:
“…and they lived happily ever after.”
But she knew it was not like that. She had conquered this peak and there was still a lot left to conquer. Now that the burdens of the past were no longer chasing her and the nightmares had stopped, now was the time to gaze towards the other peaks and not hesitate to move on.
The experiences of her life had now been translated into age, that sometimes makes us sad, but these are our riches to move forward. Yes, she was rich in experiences. She was equipped for all the battles that might follow or the peace that life might be offered to her. She was ready for everything.
She closed her eyes and saw the circles of her life: Maria as a child in Paphos, Maria as a servant, Maria as the daughter of the English family, Maria as a lady, Maria as a mother, Maria in love with life and knowledge and now, what was she now?
Now Maria was happy. At this moment of her life, she felt complete. She had everything. And if life tomorrow would take everything back, she knew she had managed to climb to the highest peak.
She remembered a poem by another Greek poet she loved. She whispered Cavafy’s lyrics, realizing that they were very similar to her own course:
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean*.
She did not find her own Ithaka poor, although she was not able to find her parents. She had started from the deepest cliff and managed to climb to the highest peak.
It has been a wonderful journey!
This is where Maria’s story ends. We, who watched her, invading in the fabric of space-time, and identified ourselves with her, watching her adventures, should leave. The sequel may not concern us, perhaps each of us can imagine it in the way we choose.
What is important is to examine the adventures and quests of our own lives, defining the journey back to our roots. Because our roots are not the patriotic songs which are taught in school, nor the misleading speeches of some of our politicians. This trip is internal. We should study our history without aphorisms and prejudices. But above all, we should love our country for what it is and with all the people who make it up.
We have a very wise proverb in our country that says:
“Man in the place and the place (without man) is a desert”
There is no other expression that signifies better the ancient anthropocentric Greek philosophy, than this saying. So, let us study and love the people of our homeland, all the people, because they make up our country. Without the inhabitants of a place, the place is deserted, a simple landscape. It is the people and their works that shape the concept of homeland and the quality of a place.
With this thought, I greet you, and thank you for going with me on this journey. You have been valuable companions.
* TRANSLATED BY EDMUND KEELEY
You may follow the links below for analysis of the excerpts from the poem “The Twelve Words of the Gypsy”: