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Maeve Gately at the ruins of Vasliki, another Minoan site near Gournia.
Maeve Gately at the ruins of Vasliki, another Minoan site near Gournia.

Digging Through the Dust

by Maeve Gately '12

Posted August 16, 2010
Tags Art History John McEnroe
Last night I dreamt of Pacheia Ammos. Though it was still mid-summer, there was already a feeling of nostalgia in the air, and a chill wind blew along the seafront and through the empty cafés. I walked from one room to the next, searching for somewhere to stay, while Greek men pointed me in a different direction each time I asked. I climbed concrete stairs to the top of the Golden Beach Hotel, and watched the ferry boats in the distance, loaded with cars and bound for faraway places. Then I heard Greek music wafting up from the Taverna below, thought of dancing, and awoke.

It has been nearly a week since I returned from Greece, greeted my family and friends, and readjusted to life back home with relative ease. Though I eat yogurt and honey every morning, and flip through the hundreds of photos I took over the course of the dig, my daily life has otherwise fallen back into its usual routine. It is only when I wake in the middle of the night, straining my ears for the crash of the sea, that I realize how deeply this summer changed me.

Before I left for Greece, I was too consumed by the complexities of life at home to think of much else. I was excited for the dig, anticipated meeting many interesting people and enriching my knowledge of archaeology, and eager to learn about a new culture. But I did not expect it to change me in any significant way and dared not disturb the layers of dust that had accumulated within me, clouding out anything but the immediate future.

As I arrived on Crete, and days of digging and drawing turned into weeks, I felt myself slowly settling into a new way of living. I learned to see the world in metres rather than feet, and cook lentils on a hotplate. I watched the sun set and the stars come out, and then awoke to see it rise again the next day. I no longer worried about the world running on time, or made sure everything was neat and in its proper place. I began to love low ruined walls as much as the soaring turrets of medieval cathedrals, and would sit on the edge of my trench in the early morning, facing the sea and blurring my eyes so that the cars disappeared and I could imagine myself I that very spot, four thousand years ago.

So I dug through layers of Minoan dust, and began to sweep away the complications from my own life as well, until the pretense gave way to truth, and I could see myself more clearly than I had in years. I am at a point in my life where nothing—my career, life at home, where I am going to study next year—is certain.

Once I had come to terms with this, however, it no longer seemed so weighty, and I returned to drawing walls with a newfound realization:
The world will turn, civilizations may fall and love may be lost, but if you dig down to bedrock and face your fears, life regains its simplicity, and with that, its zest.

So there is the ending to my summer of adventure, not quite a fade into the sunset, but nevertheless satisfying. I still do not know what I will do with my life; I did not find any answers, buried beneath layers of rubble. But I learned to sweep away the dust, to live at a slower pace and not get caught up in neurosis, to be okay with not knowing, at least for now.

I suppose sometimes the most significant findings are those which the world will never applaud.

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