The “International Women Walkers of Corfu.”
The final trail
It has been a couple of weeks since my return from Corfu, where I joined 7 other women for what turned out to be a 50 mile hike around the southern part of the island. The past two days as I have been out for my morning 4-mile walk around my neighborhood, I discovered that the week spent in Corfu is still very much with me. For starters, it became a way of celebrating my sixty fifth birthday, so just by virtue of that fact, it was an important adventure. Second, it was a way to bridge two important relationship worlds in my life – my dear, good friend, and a very important (for me) in-law from America, meeting with my sisters and great niece from Israel. Indeed, I had not realized how important it was for me that one group get to know the other. In a way it helped me feel less anonymous in my new found American life, as well as showing a different side of me to my Israeli family. Third, it was just a good time to walk through olive groves, a wide variety of brightly colored wild flowers, and along spectacular coast lines of the Greek island of Corfu, not to mention the food: daily eggs, salads, feta cheeses, assortment of fish, wholesome bread with local wines and olive oils, and even roasted chicken!
Brightly-colored wild flowers.
I enjoyed spending time with every person, each one contributing their personality, idiosyncrasies, knowledge, and emotion to the group as a whole. Whatever transpired, we all got along well, solving problems and accepting one another with friendship, and even love. There just wasn't one moment of mean spiritedness.
The Women Walkers!
My two older sisters are truly devoted to each other. Sue, the oldest, would rise out of bed every morning early enough to make a special cup of coffee for Elise, our hiking leader. If I stayed over with Elise the night before, I would wait to hear the "tap-tap" on the door, and then Sue would walk in laying out her coffee-making equipment she had lovingly brought all the way from Israel. She would chat about this and that as Elise and I would slowly open our eyes, sit up in bed to receive the desperately needed morning elixir. On the trail, Elise would take great care to know how her sisters were doing and feeling every step of the way.
At times during the hike I would burst into song – usually an Israeli song because the flora and heat would remind me of my old homeland. Ruhama, who loves her country with a passion, would immediately join in very spiritedly if she hadn't already started up a song of her own. It was always spontaneous and joyous helping us with the long, sometimes challenging, trails.
My two American companions had open minds and hearts to allow in three different cultures all at once: Greek, Israeli, and my family! They listened to stories and shared their own, and as they walked they also took care of anyone who needed their help. My heart swelled with love and pride for them both. And we laughed a lot.
Youngest among us was Jasmine, my great niece, Sue's granddaughter. She had put up with quite a lot of teasing from her friends about joining a group of older women for a hike around a Greek Island, but she came along nevertheless. At every moment there she was with her camera, photographing her story, her view of the walk with the women. I urged her to write about her impressions, but in the end I think her photographs told an even better tale. I am sure she learned a lot about her family members, about aging in general, and who knows what else …
Endurance is the key to a long and challenging hike up and down mountain paths, in and out of terraced olive groves, and especially along miles of sandy beaches in the hot sun. Just when I felt that I could not walk one other step, suddenly from somewhere within me I mustered up new strength and on I went. The energy came from a small, bright yellow butterfly fluttering alongside us as we walked, or a spectacular view of the Ionian Sea. I realized again and again just how resilient the human spirit is.
It was a special week for me, and I think I came home stronger than ever, with an open heart full of love for family and friends.