At 11AM this morning I was crossing the plaza in Grad Trogir, Croatia; the church bells tolled as well as those in the clock tower. For the second time today I saw memorial candles, not pillar candles or votives but the kind you would see in a mausoleum near individual crypts, dominantly red glass but some in purple and cobalt always with a white candle within, flames gently licking the container faint against the bright Dalmatian sunlight, crystalline blue skies and temperatures in the upper sixties. Initially, as this is a largely Roman Catholic country, I thought it must be an important Saint’s Day (my childhood Catholicism rising up to offer an explanation). I went to stand under the beautiful and ancient loggia built of the cool white stone, now soft and smooth from wear, and just as enduring as the Croatians themselves. The cafes were largely filled with grey haired men, smoking, drinking the strong coffee so preferred here, and speaking across tables to one another in the animated way of all Mediterranean people. While I am living my own a stilled frame of their lives. Ah, life.
With all the lovely “thinking things” that Teresa normally writes about why is she writing about memorial candles and old men you might be wondering. Observance. Yes, I mean to use that word and not observing.
I had time. My camera was out and on, yet I did not photograph, nor video. Not then.
A lone man entered the plaza. He genuflected. He kissed the fingertips of his hand and then touched the ground at the centre of the plaza where a group of memorial candles were lit and formed in a circle. And then his raised his pure, light filled voice in lament and it ricocheted off the stone buildings, pigeons breaking from their pecking and cooing to flight as a result. There were perhaps six words he sang a capella – I don’t know what they were other than haunting. And then he stopped, walked back toward the church, genuflected again, and disappeared. (The image is not in my head), the powerful sound and the image is now etched in my heart.
I walked. The sunlight burning down on the white stone and I wondered what I had just experienced. I went to the bank, the post office, bought post cards, and the Croatian equivalent of a ham and cheese croissant and a bottle of strawberry yogurt smoothie. I crossed the bridge into the less seamly side of Trogir (this, after-all, is a port city). I found an abandoned old stone house that took my breath away, and from it I took a handful of ripe pomegranates from those splitting open on the tree and falling to the earth in waste. Why? Aside from the nutrition and the pleasure from gleaning, what struck me was that the jeweled seeds were the exact colour of the glowing candles in the centre courtyard. I didn’t know then how close to the truth of my ‘interpretation’ of the events I had witnessed was to be.
I took my lunch at the end of the dock of Trogir marina, opposite the fortress. I was meant to be there, in that precise spot. My girlfriends Jennifer and Amy have nicknamed me Aphrodite – a sailboat amongst all those named with Croatian names was berthed along that dock. Aphrodite is the goddess of love. Love is healing energy, not simply voluptuous and sexual as most people think. It’s taking me some time to really embrace that I am a piece of universal love and my energy is important for the healing my love brings to those who touch my life, and allow me to touch theirs – perhaps even to myself. My girlfriend Nancy is a seer, and she said that part of my journey here to Croatia is about helping to heal the country (I am waiting to see how I am to be used in that regard).
I walked back. I was nearly to the grocery store when all the bells in the old town began to peal again. I was being called and though I didn’t know why I turned around and went back to loggia. And stood. And witnessed. Another man genuflected and kissed his fingers then touched the ground. Nearby an old man and a woman of indeterminate age used a plumb line and a retractable tape measure with white chalk around the candles. Precisely. Adjusting the lines over and over again, erasing and then re-chalking the line. Only from the opposite side of the plaza could you make it out. A heart. A heart surrounding the candles.
Today, 18 November 1991. The end of the Battle of Vukovar in northeastern Croatia and the day that a heinous war crime at the hands of Serbians followed over the next two days, the massacre of between 255 and 264 Croatians in a hospital the Massacre of Vukovar, also known as Ovčara.
Croatia, my heart bleeds the same shade of red as the blood red of these precious pomegranate seeds that in now knowing take on a very different meaning. Over the next couple of days, in observance and in memorial, as I clean the fruits from the pith, I will count out 264 seeds and set them aside. I will honour the memory of people I only know as I am connected to their energy because we are all one, even in our physical deaths. In the space of healing love – the mystical waters of the Adriatic – I will give these pomegranate seeds and I will send prayers for their souls to have peace.
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