This time, this time. And again we are repeating. No adventure on the way – small bags, travel light I insist, and then fail every time. We wandered the streets of Athens in bright sunshine, our eyes blinking to adjust to the light. Laughing at old jokes, making up commentary on the things before us. The red skins of sunburn on our fellow tourists on this hot March day when the sun finds its heat again. The locals fan themselves in the shade and order hot coffees – they will not be fooled by this temporary charade of summer.
At the little To Glyko, tucked away in the Plaka we gorged on plates of Bekri Meze and garlicy pazarasalata, dipping hunks of bread in juicy sauces we act half-starved and weary. We have been here before, is it repeating or finding something familiar? I call it adjusting, blending distance and closeness, familiar and strange. In these the words to find comfort in, I wonder about home and know it is just that simple: an idea, a place that calls and its echo lays deep in your heart. You carry it everywhere.
The ferry was quiet and swished under the sunset arriving into Ermoupolis without fanfare or fuss.
In that silence of a damp night when an almost full moon was gathered at the edges of the spring equinox, we listened on the terrace to the sullied sound of water condensing on the cold metal roof and dripping. Suddenly we could hear the sea. It’s a way off, down the street, past the church and the shop, past the mermaid statue that marks the end of the road. Here the mermaid faces inland rather than out at sea. I think she’s longing to turn as they call her back. Back to the arms of the sea, back to her people. But in the stillness that sound of the sea reached right up to us. It was lapping like tongues licking waves at the shore. In a minute or less the sound was gone, the ferry had passed. But each wave brought a magic to that still night with pine in the air and spiders rebuilding webs, spun for shelter.
It has been a long wet and cold winter on the island, and even now in late March on the old river bed past Ano Syros a trickle of water runs. I ask and they say it has it been unusual, and others say , the coldest and wettest for a long time. I wonder what long means. It is good for the fields, good for the sternas, full of bounty. But people get sad when the pale arms of winter have held them too close for too long.
I hear the clocks. Ding, ding and the church bells are suddenly on time. As long as I’d known them, they were always 5 minutes ahead of the hour. This spells disaster, surely this will mean that everyone in the village is now 5 minutes late.
For the first few days, time rushes as tasks need completing and we don’t worry about being early or late. The wind howls outside abstractly and untethered. Rattling doors and gates. Washing lines blowing in the 70km gusts. We sleep early in darkness before the clocks change. The night compels the body to sleep with near silence outside seeping into our brains, hushing them from constant hurry of the tick tock of life outside this room. Sometimes to only hear the drip drip of the bathroom tap and a cockerel out on the fields crowing is heaven. It must be nearly dawn. But I am awake with a still mind and restless body.
The earth comes alive again. Spring flowers are crawling into the light and I can almost hear it all growing under the red dust earth. A rare and beautiful time, only cars and wild beasts disturb us.