The Red Dress
I was drawn to the country of Georgia for some unknown reason, perhaps I’d realize when I arrived. Deep in the Caucusus Mountains, with thousands of years of history, I felt something magnetic as soon as I stepped foot into this land; I saw the ancient architecture, the myriad of influences from a thousand sources and directions. Art was everywhere - or at least its elements. The architecture was captivating and reminded me of other times and places. I felt such a sense of familiarity here - what was it and where had I been before to cause this type of déjà vu?
At the same time I had dived in headfirst to adventure, as always. I went with people I had never met and only briefly corresponded with them beforehand. I found them serendipitously and synchronistically. I felt the calling and I went. The group leaders were also life coaches so this was to be a deep dive into inner awareness, which I had been working on for years now. It was a journey into the inner self and being awake. It was the concept of exploring the outer world and lands unknown to us individually while simultaneously exploring inner life. It was cutting edge.
What brought this group of people together? What kind of characters were we in the story that we were creating? Uncannily enough, we all had some threads connecting us in ways we didn’t yet understand - I was from the state of Georgia and another traveler was an hour away in Florida so we knew each other’s territory. Another had lived in Charleston right up the coast, so the three of us had this coastal connection. The two travel leaders were from an island in the Pacific and the West coast - so we all had grown up next to water and extraordinary nature. Yet another traveler was joining us from closer in Europe where she lives, yet she also grew up somewhere else in a country neighboring ours that was steeped in lots of history and magical-like traditions. The rest of what brought us together would later unfold.
I survived and had moments where I thrived. How could I not, surrounded in my elements of nature, art, history, the feminine energy. Hospitality is tradition here and it runs through the veins of the land and its people. I arrived from Istanbul to an inn that called itself an arts hotel. This experience did not disappoint; I entered the old wooden house that felt like a museum of sorts. The art felt alive there - a deeply red dress from another era hung on a mannequin in front of paintings surrounding an old black piano in the room that opened to the balcony on the floor above. The wooden eating table was circular occupying space in front of the huge glass windows that looked down into Tbilisi from where we were in the hills. The breakfast the following morning was perhaps the most memorable I’ve ever had: the homemade bread was so delicious it tasted magical - what on earth was causing this ecstatic eating experience? It must have been made with the love and care of the women who did all the cooking.
I remember seeing lots of red - on painted chairs, russet colored sofas, art nouveau and lots of patterns and design. There were floral scrolled details on wooden doors and balconies that reminded of other places, but where - Venice, Istanbul, somewhere in Spain? I tried to recall where I had seen this influence and that before but to no avail. The same floral motif continued in the Georgian written language, or maybe it was the other way around, that the design details merely reflected the script of the letters.
We ascended the ancient monasteries of mountains and looked down from above the clouds to the green lands with shepherds leading their flocks and rivers running, rounding bends and curves. We somehow abstained from wine, the country’s specialty and pride, in order to retain every sensation and discomfort to examine them. We ate heartily and befriended everyone who crossed our path. Old women in markets fed us homemade cheese and wanted to pour spirits down our throat as is their welcoming and joyful custom. We obliged somewhat and delighted in the moment. I remember cheese and bread, cheese and bread, a hearty constant, along with steaming dumplings so hot you could see the vapor rise for several minutes after they were placed on the table. I recall green vines taking over the outer walls of buildings and pomegranates stacked on wooden carts. You could sense where a new-old part of the city had been redone for tourists - it was too perfect and lacked the patina and weathered beatings that visually remained in the shells of the buildings everywhere else.
Thinking back I see old-fashioned towers as if out of a fairy tale. The stone building and streets revealed their old age due to their very material nature. Wooden buildings with sagging staircases appeared to have survived so much turmoil yet retained their grace and drew me in. The best was that anyone could set up a shop in the street out of the back of their car - just throw an umbrella up, a stool and showcase your ware - there was pineapple, watermelon, all types of vegetables and more. So much warmth revolves around the shared cultural aspects of food in many places. Here, the nurturing aspect was obvious.
Ancient looking yet lively local babushkas led us by the arm into their tiny churches when we sauntered by and spoke to us telling their history - I didn’t comprehend the words that were said to me but with a smattering of the few Russian words I know we broke ground; somehow we understood and our faces reflected that. One of our trip leaders possessed a voice trained with a lifetime of beauty and made the moment even more sacred when we would step inside some of these ancient acoustics-loving structures, where the sound vibrations bounced and reverberated off the ceiling like they were made to. Who couldn’t be tempted to chime in with those notes? We all did. There was also lots of singing in saunas serendipitously begun in our group of travelers; it began to feel sacred, or actually, it always was, I was merely awaking to the sacred aspect of it. In our own way, we nearly felt like the awe inducing polyphonic singers this country is noted for. Along with food, this regional music accompanied us during the entire trip, providing an auditory background that heightened the sense of marvel of the visual and olfactory experiences of every moment.
I knew when I was there that I would eventually return someday because I felt the magnetism, that I must. I examined my inner knowing along with the stories our individual minds create - we each did this. Since this was both an outward and an inward journey, we took a daily and nearly hourly inventory of our fears and feelings, sharing them in order to overcome them all and be able to laugh about them later. It was one year ago exactly that I undertook this journey and the time since then has been full of renewal and change that began with this transformation travel . Georgia in the Caucasus struck my inner fire and sparked my senses to create, stripping my fears and doubts away and transmuting them. I am still adventuring as I am and have always been a seeker of inspiration and explorer at heart. I now know that we all are - every one of the travelers in our group are all artists and creative spirits - I see them making breathtakingly inspiring films, exploring the world, helping others, capturing the most exquisite nature with photography, revealing their souls to the world. Jumping into the unknown is what I have always done and at times it has indeed frightened me to what feels like insanity yet with time and distance, I am here, relating it to you, reflecting and recalling all the beautiful laughter and tears during the trip, the highs of the experiences while there and sharing it with you, knowing and vowing that I’d readily do it all over again. I have a feeling that they would too.