The Walk

It’s early afternoon and he’s looked at the map often enough to comfortably find the start of the walking route of approximately four kilometres. He negotiates a goat on a leash chewing bark from a roadside tree, and heads west on the road to the coast and the small airport. And, yes, it’s signposted to Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis. He’s travelled 2000 miles for this, a symbolic start for The Naming, and to see the birthplace of Heraclitus. The anticipation is a palpable mixture of anxiety, expectation and delirious excitement. Go straight, keep straight, the road is dead straight, you can’t go wrong and it’s signposted. After passing through a military checkpoint he continues along this path, which is adjacent to the busy vehicle road, with an unfathomable linear raised centrepiece. It’s also a designated bike track, with entrances to farms off to the right. Suddenly there’s another sign to the Temple of Artemis, written in English and Turkish, also off to the right. He follows this small track, slightly confused, because he’d assumed that this temple, as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, along with the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, would be in the heart of the ruined city, this city up ahead, in another three kilometres. This is not Ephesus.

It’s a winding dirt path and the hawkers can see you coming before you see them. They know the land and the score. This is their livelihood, and they’re kept out of the main archaeological site by security. Mehmet speaks fluid English. He’s small and middle aged with a limp and a quiet intensity. He draws you in with skilful use of eye contact. He has something very special, a book that you cannot buy, with unique impressions of Ephesus as it was and is, a semi transparent image of a sparkling new edifice cleverly peels away to reveal the same building in ruins. He demonstrates. Timing is everything, catch them by surprise. They are expert at this and he almost succumbs but is not keen to carry a book at this early stage in the walk. That must be Mesut’s little car parked over there he realises later. Emir travels by bike and has impressive, but on closer inspection, tattered, concertinas of postcards that he rapidly unfolds to show their quantity and quality. They bounce and sway and need no explanation. His one English word is “postcards” and he repeats it with a growing urgency and volume to make his point, “postcards, Postcards, POSTCARDS.” The price varies depending on the time of day and the potential customer. This is late afternoon and Kino has arrived on foot, without a tour bus or car, so he starts at 20 lira. They are guardians of the temple, here all day every day, with mouths and lifestyles to feed from the pockets of visitors still struggling with the currency. He is conflicted, two things are going on at once, dealing with these sales pitches and taking stock of the temple, a place where Heraclitus was said to spend his later years in the company of local children, finding more wisdom in them than with the adults he’d rejected. In all the talk about the grandeur of Ephesus he was not prepared for this, a sunken rectangle of waste ground the size and dimensions of a soccer pitch, with a solitary column to one side and some scattered stone fragments around the edge.

He returns along the winding track, turns right to rejoin the still straight path. He notices that it’s punctuated with concrete winged statuettes every 100 metres. They are clearly visible from the passing cars and trucks and designed to demarcate the route. He’s walking. The step is from heel to sole to toe. Heel, soul, toe. Bikes overtake, ridden by a family of French tourists. They go on straight ahead. Follow the bikes. The trajectory, his mind wanders. Keep the weight low, passing through the knees. He’s demonstrating the Tai Chi walk to a group of novices. Heel sole toe, keeping the weight low, heel soul toe, experiencing the subtle transference of weight. He’s a boy soldier inventing manoeuvres, the reverse wheel, the triple stamp, heel down hard, extra studs in the thick leather soles for more impact. The pressure starts to ease and he’s now almost gliding, hovering on an invisible cushion of heavy air. Once isolated steps have become a continual flow. He is weightless, as if treading water with rubber flippers. He looks down to an earth base of dust and small rocks. He remembers the dead dirt underneath the parquet floor in Carlisle, where he made his first video, in black and white because they could never agree on the colour balance. He sees and hears the clapper board. His feet feel different. They are no longer his. The atmosphere is changing as he draws closer to his long awaited destination. A thread is inexorably pulling him towards the home of Heraclitus, the great Ephesian scholar philosopher, adored by Nietzsche, admired by Deleuze, mocked by Plato, loved by children.

The statuettes that lined the road stopped a while ago, the track surface has changed to crumbling tarmac and it feels that he’s covered more than three kilometres, but he questions his judgement and keeps going. Then the airport appears. Has he missed a turning, a sign to Ephesus? There was no sign. With an inner shudder he finally gives up and turns back to eventually find a turning off the main road and a sign for cars saying ‘Efes.’ Flanked by trees and bushes on the parallel walking path this was not visible and it was so straight. No sign on this path for walkers. Time is now running out for a visit to the great ruined city this afternoon. Tricked, humbled, enchanted or intended, he returns to Selçuk and opts for the last hour before closing time of the newly refurbished Museum of Anthropology, a tragically deprived and withered fig tree in the courtyard, and what must surely be a room devoted to Heraclitus.

January 2018

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Looking East

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Looking West

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Further

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Fig Tree at the Museum