I have been haunted on this trip by an unresolved issue.
A person who hurt me, I thought, and who acts like I hurt him. No amount of wandering and diversion, no number of sights and foreign languages have erased this solid lump of anger/sadness.
Will I find the answer here in Lake Ohrid? I’ve learned to not judge so much (see Pearl One) but yet the pain that guards the heart won’t let in the love that connected us.
What will be the final pearl?
Everywhere they seem to be hawking Ohrid pearls! Apparently they don’t come from oysters but are some mysterious concoction from the scales of the Plasica fish in the lake. Repeatedly I hear that only two special families know the secret and that all the others are fake. Hence my focus on true wisdom and not glib answers.
And what is the attraction of this lake, the focus of our 5 day Macedonian tour?
Lake Ohrid has yet to be discovered by most tourists. Yay!!! In 700 BC it was inhabited by those who built houses over the lake on over 6000 piles. A reconstruction called “Plocha Mikov Grad” resembles the description by Herodot. One can only imagine the attraction to the bountiful fish and fowl here.
It has been the destination for centuries of political leaders (Alexander the Great probably. Tito had a home there.) It has been the sacred place of Christian teachings, monasteries, and pilgrimage sites. I can’t even remember all the names of the churches we visit, much less the significance of the number of cupolas each has. St. Naum’s monastery contains his body and we are instructed to lay our ear over the concrete cover and listen for his heart. When I try to find out the name of the “Church in the Rocks” we visit, Wikepdia says is one of many churches in the rocks around the lake! Lake Ohrid is surrounded by the sacred.
The skies change their light continually. Indeed the ancient name was Lychnidos, “City of Light.” A boat ride in the lake yielded spacious photo opportunities of changing patterns and unfolding vistas, each more “picturesque” than the previous.
The sacred, the light … and the water! Ahhh… the water.
That’s the attraction to Ohrid! That’s why the conquerors sought Macedonia! Witness the origin of much of the flow from numerous springs at the Monastery of St. Naum. They resemble the hauntingly beautiful springs in Northern Florida where I have kayaked and camped. Symbols of a spiritual source indeed, coming from the depths in a trust-worthy continual gushing flow.
This is an ancient lake, formed 2-3 million years ago. And because of the surrounding mountains a unique collection of plants and animals have evolved. It does feel unique and special. The lake is vast, mysterious, and deep. The water is clear and beckoning. It is primarily the Eastern Europeans who flock to its shores. Happy happy people! Something about the basin of blue-green held by the arms of forest and rock.
I don’t really associate with my friends here, just wander the ancient sites and ask for answers.
Most of the churches are closed but one is open, the famous St. Sophie. Ancient, beloved, abused by the Moslem reign, restored with surprise as frescoes were uncovered, used for concerts because of its perfect acoustics. St Sophie. Well, I guess this where I am supposed to be after all, un-distracted by lectures or companions.
I wander its old naves. Wonder at the dulled painted figures – so many important men, popes, apostles, martyrs … It must have been absolutely glorious! A historical and Biblical story-book on ever wall, for those who of course couldn’t read.
I’m supposed to be here. Of all the places, all the streets, all the lectures, this is it. “Is there an answer,” I ask? And opening my eyes, am shown. In the upper center of all these glorious, learned and heroic men she sits. The simple Madonna holding what looks like an oval platter. Containing of course her child, the Christ. Unadorned. Simple. Holding the answer.
The PhD guide had alluded to it. “Christ,” she had pronounced, waving flowers, “Is about love, forgiveness, understanding, trust…”
So here us the highest answer to my suffering and to that of the world.
I like visual answers! The feminine holding onto the Christ. Whether or not one calls oneself “Christian”, a powerful message of the New Testament is about forgiveness. Blanket forgiveness because we are all human and we all screw up.
As we know forgiveness is a process, over and over and over again.It is a very high intention. And it takes courage and clarity and help. So on the final day at Lake Ohrid I dive into the cold cleansing waters and do just that. Immersing myself probably in the very blood, sweat and tears of the saints, I forgive him. And I forgive myself. And I ask for daily help to do what is best.
I’m leaving Macedonia with the final pearl. And actually laugh about the whole pearl thing!
I’ve asked everyone from tour guide to hotel clerk what defines the “true” Ohrid pearl and the “fake” ones that are pawned off on tourists. The young lady in the expensive pearl shop owned by one of the two special families tells me the truth. “The true Ohrid pearl is layers of emulsion on top of a form we construct from abalone shell. The false Ohrid pearl is on some other base – it could be plastic!” Really? They are all fake anyway since they aren’t from oysters!
Does it really matter I think? Underneath we are all so flawed! The only answer is to daily lay down new precious layers, new patterns, formed of suffering and wisdom, questions and answers, ever-changing patterns of dark and light,… and let all the pain dissolve with intention in the boundless and continually renewed waters that, after all, connect us.
(Post-script: And I never tell him this. I just become clear about my own boundaries. And reach out in love to form an evolving genuine friendship.)
My Ohrid Pearls from the shop recommended by the tour guide (probably a cousin) -- $30