The smooth, white stone, picked up off the beach down the mountainside, feels cold in my hands. I wrap my fingers around it and breathe in. The campfire glows smokily in the centre of our circle, and I feel rather than see the faces of the people I have spent these last two weeks with, people who, like this place, have crept into my heart.
“My time here is drawing to a close,” I say, speaking slowly, “and it’s been an interesting journey. Time has contacted here; so much has happened in such a short time. So I say thank you, to you all, to those who came before you,to those who will come after, and especially to those who are here now. Thank you for your open hearts and friendly faces. Ho!”
“Ho!” the circle responds.
I pass the stone along, now a little warmer from my palms. As it passes from hand to hand, giving the holder the opportunity to share, to speak about their time here, and the rest of us the opportunity to listen, the stone grows warmer. Our expressions of deep gratitude grow too; for each of us, whether as a guest, workshop leader, staff member or volunteer, have felt the joy and connectivity of being part of a community, of being part of something bigger.
I have spent these last two weeks at Kalikalos, a holistic community in the village of Kissos, high up in the mountains of Pelion, northern Greece. I joined the community as a staff volunteer, helping others to keep the centre running smoothly. Kalikalos is the vision project of one man who lived in communities for some years before embarking on co-creating one of his own in a warm place.
Kalikalos hosts many workshops and retreats over the season, but it is not a hotel. Guests, just like the staff and volunteers, help out in the kitchen to prepare our communal meals and clean up, as well as in the garden. Visitors may also lead early morning yoga or meditation sessions.
The gratitude that I feel for being here comes from sharing a home for a time. It also comes from the opportunity to connect with people on a deeper level, to work with them and get to know them, to listen to their stories, to support them, and to turn to them when I have needed support. Daily tasks, then, become a pleasure because they bring a smile to someone else’s face.
I am also grateful for the chance to spend time in this place, at the edge of a village on the densely forested mountain slopes of Pelion, with a view of the healing sea far below. I have watched the sun rise over the water, I have felt the clouds roll in and rain thicken the air, I have seen the orange glow of the full moon reflected in the sea, I have rejoiced in each sunny day.
I am somewhere else now. I have said my goodbyes to the place and the people, but I will continue to digest and process my time at Kalikalos; these are the kind of stories that I will still be telling in years to come.
Stacey Nel, Capetown S. Africa – Girl on a Wander