open arms


There were a few nights when we were away, or had dinner guests, and so our progress with Emily Wilson’s translation of the Odyssey has been a little slow. But last night we sat by the fire and read half of Book 3, in which Telemachus visits Nestor on Pylos to ask for information about his father.

They reached the center of the town, where Nestor
was sitting with his sons and his companions,
putting the meat on spits and roasting it
for dinner. When they saw the strangers coming,
they all stood up with open arms to greet them…

Again I’m taken by the notion of xenia, the guest friendship in which a host offers a guest (or a group of them, because Telemachus was travelling with companions) a meal, soft fleeces to sit on, honeyed wine poured into a golden cup. No questions asked, not until the guest has been given sustenance.

In our broken world, it seems like something we could do. We could open the door, draw in a stranger by the hands, seat him or her by our fire, and offer meat and wine. What story might follow?

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