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Into the Abyss

Wake up call: This week is Thanksgiving. Next is the last week of classes. The following few days mark the end of the program and mass exodus off the island (and the country). Following that I will be in Morocco for a week, scraping into Boston just in time for Christmas. I guess, long story short, what I mean to say is the end is approaching. This past Sunday was our last weekend exploration and I was surprised it was going to be on Paros. After a lot of island-hopping, followed by an adventure out of the country, I found myself arrogantly wondering why we would want to go out with a fizzle, and not with a bang. I was wonderfully mistaken.

We began driving down a road I consider myself quite familiar with (leading to Lefkes in the center of the island), and promptly pulled over alongside a brown sign reading “Ancient Quarries”. After a slight hike leading into a valley of small, sun-dappled mountains, we arrived at an empty monastery. The caretaker had agreed to show us the space despite its being unoccupied except during its namesake Saint’s Day. He unlocked each door with care and we entered the worship space meditatively, absorbing all the sights of shadows and light speckles before moving onto the following rooms.

   

From there, we continued down the country road to an old quarry that was in use into the late 19th century. For any of you horror flick fans out there, I’m going to parallel my experience with that from “As Above, So Below”, a film I very much enjoyed about a group of scouts that gets lost in the winding Paris catacombs. It was chilling to the bone, utilizing a found footage technique that accurately depicted the discomfort of small spaces in complete darkness very far underground.

Much like my scary movie counterparts, I found myself wandering following a thin beam of light cascading down into the unmoving darkness.

Of course, watching horror movies has its fallbacks, which at the time included me assuming I would stumble into a lost, eyeless being from far below at every corner in the split second that the flashlight beam sliced apart the thick darkness. For those of you gripping the edge of your seat, this didn’t happen at any point and no humans were harmed in the marking of this photograph.

Thanks to my friend Rachel, who explains that in an alternate reality, she is a park ranger indoctrinating the youth (and uneducated adults like myself) on surreal natural phenomena, I was able to learn about the magnitude of work stalactites go through to enter existence. She explained that they took thousands of years to grow and in our case, the babies we crouched beneath (which could be argued to be maybe an inch long on a good day), had more than likely begun their descent to the ground when the tunnels were developed hundreds of years ago. They looked like wet honey, crystalized and shining against flourescent flashlights, but dry to the touch.

From the very beginning, marble was piled from top to bottom along the cave’s wall, the resource the mines and quarries were made for. Paros is still renowned present day for this marble. Ancient Greek relics attribute the island for being the primary marble producer in the country, at least in the time of mining (done almost exclusively by slaves in ancient times) and high statue production.

This island will always have nooks and crannies to surprise me, particularly when I think superiorly that it is has shown me all it has to offer. I feel grateful to have been able to enter one of earth’s dormant bloodstreams, the forgotten realm of children’s dreams.

 

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