Sunday, April 6, 2008

Rhodes (4)

In the meanwhile I was about to attend extra lectures at the
Stoa that focused more deeply into the character of Providence
(the Divine Mind or Cosmic Reason) and the Pneuma (the
fiery breath or Spirit), but that was not to happen!

I had received a letter from my oldest brother, sent originally
to the Academy in Athens and then forwarded on to the Stoa.
Receiving letters via the Praetorian mail service was much
more expeditious than my situation, now, as a plain citizen.
Anyway, I could see that the letter was months old. And when
I began to read it, I was struck by shock and sadness.

It seemed quite awhile back Marc's mother--my aunt Eleana--
had died after a short illness. Even worse, only a few weeks
later her husband died! I had heard of these strange kind of
occurrences, where grief determined an attached soul to
follow its mate into death. It's an unaccountable phenomenon
that does happen.

Reading this letter, I felt strongly that I had to return to my family
quickly. Over time I had become close friends with my cousin
Marc, and I wanted to be a comfort for him--if possible. So I
gathered my notes, said goodbye to my Stoic mentor, and
grabbed the first ship leaving Rhodes for Athens--and ultimately
on to Ostia and Rome. At this point it seemed that my scholastic
days were over!

Upon return, after spending a small amount of time with my
brothers, I traveled to Marc's villa. I wasn't comfortable
offering sympathy, in that I didn't want to seem maudlin. Not
to worry, I couldn't if I tried. Marc was very pleased to see me.
He could readily see that my sympathy was genuine. And, as
it were, he was far and away from the initial sadness of his
parents' deaths. I had to remember that they both died quite
awhile ago.

Indeed, Marc presented me with a surprise. I was the first to
know, but he and his brothers had arranged to sell their villa.
And Marc had decided to leave Rome! Over the years he had
done incredibly well as a master gardener. And he had literally
amassed a fortune following the success of his landscaping

But, he had grown tired of the same--so to speak. Rome now
had too many parks. The project at Tivoli had been completed.
So major projects were no longer plentifully forthcoming. As for
the landscaping of private homes and villas, well such continued
to be a profitable undertaking but the work was hardly challenging.

So, Marc decided that he wanted to move to a new venue! He
was preparing to visit the Province of Africa, where all sorts of
new towns had been established for retiring legionaries. There
were major gardens to be built. Indeed, there would be new
challenges considering the arid climate that reigned in most of
Africa's inland. Marc had heard that Persian gardens were the
vogue in this part of the world. So it seemed that Africa could
provide a wonderful new challenge for him.

With this, he very much wanted me to accompany him down to
Africa to take a look. Marc's proposal was almost like a body blow,
in that I had barely returned from my sea journey from Rhodes and
Athens. Traveling wasn't as easy for me as when I was younger.
Regardless, I agreed to accompany Marc to Africa--though I had
no idea what might lie ahead.

Upon hearing our plans, my older brother decided that he wanted
to travel along with us. He wanted to visit two of his sons who now
were in charge of our corporation's shipping office in Carthage. Both
Marc and I winked, knowing full well that the "old man" was planning
to check-up on the boys.

With this, we merry threesome boldly decided to take passage on
one our company's merchant ships. No amenities for the passenger
aboard this kind of vessel, but we made do and headed for Africa.

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