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Posted: May 31, 2012 6:01 p.m.

Morgan: Not living in the moment

We recently returned from an out-of-town trip to find that summer - not even having arrived officially - is on sale and fall is peeking around the corner. The mailbox was full of catalogs offering miraculous markdowns on everything one might want for summer - shorts, sandals, sand pails, swimwear and outdoor furniture, to name a few. Are such early sales campaigns a simple ploy to bulk up summer sales figures or just to get rid of merchandise that's overstocked due to overzealous corporate buyers? Or is it a brazen example of ever accelerating marketing and profit taking that focuses us always on the future and what will be the next trend instead of enjoying the particular moment where we find ourselves?

Those of us who are trying to live "in the moment" find it jarring. It's like standing in shallow waves on the seashore as the tide turns and begins to suck the water away along with the sand on which one stands. We dig our toes in and struggle for balance. I recoil from a force-fed march of time. Just let me be here and now.

Along with the summer sales, the fall bulb catalogs have arrived. Fall? It's still spring! Must I think of planting winter-blooming blossoms when I just now put my summer bedding plants in the ground? Oh please no. Frustrated, I toss the catalogs into the recycling bin, and they will be long gone when I really want to think about brightly colored tulips, bobbing daffodils and the heady scent of hyacinths. For now, let me bask in the pleasure of heavy-laden hydrangeas, the encircling fragrance of magnolias in bloom and the sun-colored masses of day lilies.

If you're ever going to visit Greece, it is said that May is the best month, not only for the pleasant temperatures to be enjoyed before the sun turns into an overhead broiler, but also for the wildflowers that blossom in abundance but will not stand up to summer's excessive heat. That's where we were for a few days last week on a small ship cruise that included island stops in both Greece and Turkey.

Both advisories proved true. The weather was temperate, even chilly a day or two, and the wildflowers dotted the landscape in brilliant colors that breathed new life into the marble, stone and granite remains of temples, houses, villages, marketplaces, amphitheaters and public gathering areas once peopled by cultures thousands and thousands of years old. The sunbaked and weathered ruins appeared sandy colored and pale gray, but the wildflowers in hues of pink, yellow, lavender, red and orange framed the starkness of all that once was. They competed for my rapt attention as the tour guide told his captivating stories of gods and goddesses, warriors, winners, losers, ancient trading ports, the founding of democracy and the earliest Christians.

What strikes me now is the stark contrast: between our modern society's concept of time as defined by the relentless, forced rush to whatever is next, the next season, the next new thing, the next quarterly profit report and the call felt in much older countries - such as Greece and Turkey - to look back and examine the past, to discover the ways ancient cultures lived, developed, toiled, warred and worshiped. If you want to be an archaeologist, you'll never be without work in those locales.

So much has been discovered and can be toured and marveled over today, but so much remains to be uncovered in the soils and silt of millennia. We visited the abandoned village of Ephesus on the island of Kusadasi, once the most important trading center in Asia, the village where Mary the mother of Jesus is said to have lived her last days, the village where Paul preached for three years and to whose residents he wrote what became the book of Ephesians in the New Testament.

We toured three-story houses that had been built into the hillside that boasted heated floors, sewage systems, mosaicked floors and frescoed walls, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and expansive living rooms. The town had a hospital where the first surgeries were ever performed, including dental surgeries. The second largest theater in the world was built there with a capacity of 25,000. We were awestruck at the massive two-story façade of a library that once housed 12,000 books written on papyrus and goatskin. Both brothels and temples had addresses on the main street. All of this, and yet only 10 percent of the village has been uncovered. The look back in time is more interesting and compelling to me than our fast march toward what can't be known or even imagined.

Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics.

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