Mystic. Pagan. The beginning.
A procession makes its way along the winding mountain road, surrounded by the thick black inkiness of night. The group small and vulnerable beneath the mammoth masses of craggy rock towering above.
The connection between total strangers is palpable as the crowd moves forward, following the leader through the darkened village. Red pulsating electric hearts have been positioned along the road to mark the way and to act as beacons and harbingers of good.
The air is crisp frosty and hurts if you gulp too fast. Cheeks are tight and turgid and souls are young. We are immersed in all that came before, treading with torch in hand... the exodus to harsh lands from those harsher still, clear starlit skies and raging storms, war, famine, hope and courage, birth and death.
The elderly wave and cheer us on from where they lean out of open windows and balconies bundled in shawls and heavy sweaters. Hip Hip Hoorah! Hip Hip Hoorah! Community, people love. For just one night or maybe for always.
After an hour, with children starting to climb into their parent's arms and the cold having seeped in, we find ourselves back at home base, with the scent of mulled wine and acrid smoke from hundreds of blown out candles filling the air.
My companions and I duck into the warmth of a brightly lit locale at the foot of the mountain. Delicious food and scrumptious wines, a convivial atmosphere as coats scarves and hats are shed and children are let loose.
Everyone finds their nook or a chair to roost on along the bar. Warm golden light washes over us and firelight dances on the walls. Extremities begin to thaw out, as do demeanors and tongues. It is time to share; exchange stories and emotions.
Outside the land is dark, a lone dog barks, and the temperature continues to drop.
Title photo by Drift Shutterbug