Part 3: Iola and Mountain Pilgrimage
Ten pilgrims on lofty climb with Ambrose
And Cynara, from mountain paths they took
Ascending steps, each hand chiseled from
Rambling granite face, call for prayers, rising
In misty light, niches for meager meals or
Rest. One not of their group kept following,
Young girl, Iola, who continued as much in
Faith as fear of heights, cloud-obscured, sun-
Breaking elevated views, huddling against
Stone wall, when voices of Ambrose, others
Faded, Iola pressed upward, steps below
Disappearing in opalescent clouds.
“Who is she?” Cynara asked shepherd folk.
“Adopted child, lost highland wildling, no
Family, wandered weeks if not months.” For
Iola, there was no turning back, hesitant
Climb with Ambrose or Cynara, her distance
Kept, wavering, up three steps, down one
Next, edging towering rock face. Alas, along
Higher courses, twisting steps narrowed,
Requiring soulful prayers of salvation,
Redemption of sinful thoughts and deeds,
Caring for each other as they wept, gods
Peering deep within their hearts.
Once reaching lower temple promenades,
Ambrose, Cynara, and shepherd pilgrims
Bathed in medicinal pools, upwelling springs,
Preparations to approach sacred spheres
Concealed from mortal eyes, oracular voices
Sequestered, chorus of gods, many attuned
As one, fountain-head of sentient thought.
“There is one, not amongst you, who follows,
Climbs upon steps, stopping in fear, in faith
Continuing,” deific voice stated for all to
hear. “Yes,” Ambrose answered. “She is not
One of ten, Iola is war-weary child, afeard
Of great heights, water-slickéd steps.”
Shimmering light temple emerged, female
Form in shape. “Bring us sweet maiden.
Cynara, by our hands, Iola will approach
Divine presence.” Upon lower tiers, they
Found Iola numbed by fear, memories of
War-dead parents, starving child, clothes
Tatter-torn, ravaged by briars and thistle,
Saved by shepherd folk, face void of hope,
Yet she followed Ambrose and Cynara upon
Winding temple steps. Act of merciful love,
Divinity Iola assumed, metamorphosis of
Maiden child, on temple pediments, through
Iola, goddess in mortal form appeared.
And the goddess cordially admitted me, with her hand my right hand held and thus spoke and addressed me; Oh youth, to the immortal charioteers firmly raised with the mares that bring you as you come to our halls, be glad!, since you was not by evil destiny prompted to share this path – for indeed is beyond men’s feet – but by Rightness as well as Justice. And you have to know everything, both the well-rounded truth’s unshakable heart, and mortals’ opinions, empty of true faith. However, these also will you learn, that false beliefs like true must seem, pervading everything by all means.
— Parmenides, “Being is all There Is,” 1:22-32