I get off the bus and look around. I’ve been travelling for hours in the hot Greek sun.
I have never been to Greece, but I know that is where I am in this story.
All around me is scrub, brown and brittle, dry in the hot sun. The tour guide summons us to the table set out on the cool shaded veranda. We eat Greek salad and lush Kalamata olives that meld with the salty feta sheep’s cheese. I’m from sheep country. The fells of Cumberland are scattered with woolly punctuation marks.
The evening is still warm and languid. The remains of the food has been cleared away and the music has begun. I take my wine and move into the shadows away from the biting insects.
The moon is waning, only a quarter of her usual face is visible in the light is enough to show the grove of olive trees. As I walk amongst them I can hear the raucous laughter and smell the faint tang of cigarette smoke.
I see I have arrived at Cerridwen’s camping place. I have been here before, in another place. I give her greeting and then sit beside her fire in silence.
The restlessness that has been with me all day has me wriggling like a schoolgirl.
“May I taste the Cauldron?” I ask of Her.
Wordlessly she hands me the cup and I dip. Quickly I bring the cup to my mouth and, just as quick, I spit the brew back out again. The bitter taste lingers.
“What the hell is that?” I demand.
” Ah, you have tasted the thankless task that is motherhood,” Kerridwen smiled wryly.
“You are not the first and you won’t be the last. It is only in stories written by men and their sycophants that motherhood comes with ease and joy and flowers. In women’s tales, the truth contains pain and loneliness and rejection. Women know that it is a journey that must lead to self-reliance, to pride in self, to acceptance of the final abandonment of that which is held most dear. To stand with your feet firmly planted still while every fibre in you wants to run, to keep hold. No, my dear, motherhood is a bitter cup to drink from.”
I realise that I am listening with my mouth open, like a child at her first understanding of womanhood. Slowly I close my mouth and rise to my feet, cautious of my erratic knees.
“So I am not the only one to taste this bitterness?” I ask.
Cerridwen does not laugh, as I expect; does not mock my childish earnestness.
“No, daughter. You have many sisters in the world and many who have passed on to study the lessons gained from this turning of the wheel. You are not, nor ever have been, alone.”
It is enough. I turned back to the company in search of baklava and the honey of the bees.