“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
I’m writing at a dressing table placed in front of the open French doors of our bedroom overlooking the Aegean Sea. D is writing under an umbrella on the terrace. I watch him at times, and he looks as though he’s inhabiting rather than creating this other world in his mind. We will write until the UV level drops below 7 and we can face the sun and dive into one of the best swimming waters in Europe.
We have arrived at Skopelos, the “Mama Mia” island of the Sporades in Greece. I wasn’t sure whether or not to post a picture of the beach—what’s the point? You can imagine a paradisal water front, right?
As much as Italy feels like our spiritual home, its culture and way of life, our bodies truly relax when they touch Greek ground. Or rather: Greek water. What feels better than to strip down, leave all your clothes and belongings and worries behind on the beach, dive into the deep blue, the coolness, register the sensation of flowing water as a caress against your skin, swim athletically until your heart pounds and your legs tire, float for a while, watching the birds or occasional clouds overhead, and then scramble up a rock and pick up a novel and bathe in the sun?
Swimming is like a small rebirth each day.
The life that follows after is healthy, friendly, and inexpensive. Everyone greets one another here with “Yassas” (formal) or “Yassou,” which more or less means “Good health to you.” There are few tourists around and the locals welcome us with smiles wherever we go—and not just to sell us their products or services. Within three days, we’ve already talked to more people about their lives and habits than we ever did in Italy. It helps that most Greeks speak English much better than Italians.
(I’m learning Italian, but it’s a slow process, and except for a handful of words, I have not yet attempted to speak Greek.)
For breakfast, I pluck fresh plumbs and mulberries from our garden and eat a handful of walnuts. Lunch is often similar (fruit and nuts) unless I eat a Greek salad or a small bowl of fava, a yellow-split-pea-humous I make myself—in this heat, I don’t get hungry. (Which is a good thing after two months of Italian sauces and gelato.) Each morning, a fisherman drives his small truck all the way from the harbor up the steep slopes of our village to sell his fish to the locals and restaurants. This morning, I went out to buy a pink sea bream that we will serve for dinner tonight, along with some bell peppers and zucchinis. Local wine tastes good and costs about the same as coke in the US.
Here is a list of creatures who have so far visited me inside my room this morning: a hummingbird moth, several bees, a lizard, a swallow (very confused, poor thing), a monarch butterfly, many other types of butterflies, a hornet, three gigantic black ants, a mosquito (dead now, sorry), a variety of flies from tiny to disgustingly large, and a huge black bumble bee.
All these creatures are as distracting as they are wonderful.
The crowing rooster in the early morning is perhaps the most distracting, along with the occasional barking dog and cat in heat, but they remain outside, at a distance. I have yet to spot my first goat.
Should I turn this post into a lesson now, a rounded flash essay with a thread, a theme? My writer mind tells me it must be done. One cannot just write a sequence of incoherent paragraphs and send it out into the world, expecting to be understood. But my heart tells me to let it go. I want this piece to be like the water I dive into everyday, going wherever it wants to go.