May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. ~Edward Abbey
Are we in the same country today as we were yesterday? The signs are still in Turkish but all else bears little resemblance to Istanbul. It is as if during the hour long ride in the airplane and half hour jaunt by vehicle, we were transported not only to another world but to a different century. Time is slower here in Cappadocia, people move at a more leisurely pace, their is no hustle, no bustle, no vendors haranguing me to purchase their wares.
Cappadocia is a land of ephemeral beauty, a cross between my beloved Southern Utah and the Badlands of South Dakota with a flavor that accentuates the combination, a flavor that is still uniquely Turkish. The shapes of the land forms known as fairy chimneys seem derived from the Islamic script, the same flowing strokes, the same gentle angles adorn both the writing and the land.
The fairy chimneys are frequently hollowed out, hollowed out by human hands to create rooms, windows, doors, shelves, fireplaces, a city of rocks in the rocks. The were seemingly ubiquitous on our hike in and around the city in the rocks and we took a good measure of time exploring them on our hike, a hike cut short by rain. During the worst of the rain, we took respite in a chimney, a room about ten foot square, that protected us from the wet and the brisk winds. We sat in the doorway and looked over the city, the empty city where people once flourished.
It was quiet in that room. Quiet outside in the vast surroundings and quiet inside of me. I was still, still for the first time since this trip began. I was comfortably still, relaxed, enjoying the peacefulness that infuses my body when I am hiking in landscapes defined by the rock that creates these natural playgrounds, these holy grounds. We probably could have sat there for hours, hours in silence, hours as first man and first woman surveying our domain, had the temperature not dropped and a chill crept into our bones. However, there was to be another twist before we headed back to the trailhead.
While sitting in that rock cave isolated from all people except the lovely woman nestled in my arms, the Islamic call to prayer sounded. I did not understand the words, had no idea what the caller was saying to his people, only knew it was a call to prayer because of what I learned during my stay in Istanbul. Yet, the intonations, the syllables uttered in that lovely, lyrical mode felt mystical, felt reverent, felt holy.
I felt this way because, I believe, humans are designed by God to be spiritual beings, designed by God to long for him, designed by God to seek him. Are, by our very nature, incomplete without a solid connection to God, have a hole in our heart that can only be filled by God. The longing to fill that hole has defined man’s existence since the ancients worshipped for thousands of years in thousands of sacred places like Cappadocia.
When the rain finally abated, we braved the cool winds and headed back to the hotel to get some warmer clothing so our next round of exploration would be more comfortable. Walking out of the rock city, I realized that I felt at once at home, safe in familiar surroundings while fully aware that I had never before set foot on this ancient, hallowed ground.
Perhaps the familiarity was because I saw a fairy chimney that was a near exact match to Balanced Rock in Arches National Park, perhaps it was because I feel so comfortable in stark landscapes peppered with rock formations that seem more fantasy than real, perhaps it is because I am as comfortable in reality as I am in my fantasies, perhaps it is because I am more comfortable alone with my thoughts than I am surrounded by the teeming masses.
I’m not really sure why I felt so at home during the hike but, I do know, that I will be going hiking into the rock city again to enjoy God’s creation, to enjoy looking out at ethereal landscapes as the ancient did when they carved homes into these rocks under the power of their own hands, if, for nothing else, to enjoy the feeling of being at home though I have never before walked these lands.