My first attempt had been thwarted by floods. It was Beltane 2010, and having just finished priestessing at our community Beltane gathering, I was traveling to Nashville to meet with my partner. He was on a long layover due to his semi-trailer truck being grounded for the weather. It had been a few weeks since I had last seen him, and always up for an adventure I decided to brave the storm.
It was apocalyptic. The rain was so heavy my windshield wipers could literally not withstand it, and continually broke free of themselves, rendering them useless every few miles until I could stop to readjust them. By the time I reached Nashville the storm was breaking. After a kind man fixed my wipers for me, I collapsed in the hotel room I had reserved, alone and exhausted. In the morning light, the devastation was shocking, and all the more emphasized by the entirely vacant mass of highways.
I braved the 1000-year Tennessee flood. It kept me from my partner. And from the Parthenon. But it did not keep me from myself. It was a reminder of how capable I was, the strength and resilience I possessed, and that even alone I could weather the storm.
Five months later I returned to Nashville, my life swept away in its own flood. I was on my way across the country to start a new life in San Francisco, recently single, with only my dog and what I could pack into my Subaru.
The pull to visit the Parthenon and to see the statue of Athena was irresistible. I knew I would need her on this journey. So I planned my route through Nashville. It was the first stop on what came to be the second, but most important, pilgrimage in my life that far.
I pulled into the parking area and took in the sight of this most unlikely Parthenon. Perched at the top of a small park, it looked more like someone had taken one of the plastic replicas from Greece, enlarged it to actual size, and plopped it down in the middle of a quintessential Southern city. The contrary nature of it began the shift in my awareness toward a liminal state.
I made my way to the Naos, past the galleries, and taking in the towering columns and the reproduction art and statues. I passed through a massive doorway, turned a corner, and fell to my knees. There She was, a 42 foot replica of the statue of Athena, as she would have been in the Parthenon of Ancient Greece. I wasn’t sure what to expect; I think at most I had hoped for an authentic museum like experience. Instead I found the certainty that the goddess was present here, that this was not a museum, not to me anyway, but a living breathing temple.
Having just spent the last few years working to the bone to nurture community-as-temple and to create physical-space-as-temple, the feeling was overwhelming and a balm. Here in the most unlikely of places was a building in which the divine resided.
My knees protested against the marble floor, and the tears that would be with me for the rest of the journey began to wet my face. But this pain, and this flood, was sacrament and offering. As some of my tears fell to the floor at her feet, I remembered the flood waters that only months before had been on this same ground.
I prayed for strength and wisdom as I went westward, weary from long battles and yet feeling as though I was being deployed to new territory. Would I make it? Could I do this? Was this even the right thing? I tried to quiet my sobs as more people were entering the space, and I took in her physical presence her more closely.
Her serene face belied a deep wisdom as I considered her shield, and what a fine raft it might make in a disaster; my mind firmly unattached from its usual hinges. Nike’s wings brushed against my face as I heard Athena’s voice resounding in the echo chamber of my heart. Here in this sovereign Goddess of wisdom and battle, I began to feel the ray of divine love in my heart again, and the support of a sister who is larger than life.
I offered my tears and weariness to her, and felt an abiding strength fall across my shoulders as a cloak. I knew I had many days travel ahead of me, yet I did not want to tear myself away from her. I shifted my body and craned my face to look at her one more time, and asked for her support in the days and months to come. At that moment, I knew this was another trial and another part of my journey and that I would never be alone.
“I will stay with you as you drive this chariot, Warrior Sister.”