What I am really saying is that you don't need to do anything, because if you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomenon of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that,and there is really nothing wrong with you at all.' - Alan Watts



lefkos, finiki & arkassa

Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday

 

...sabbato...

 

'Avrio, Tony. See you tomorrow. OK?' Nikitas grinned and continued mending his fishing nets.

'I doubt it, there's no bus tomorrow! What if I am marooned?'

'Listen to me, my friend. You spend half an hour in plastiki Finiki and you'll be so glad to leave, you'll walk back - you might even run!'

I'd been rambling with my backpack over the islands of Kassos and Karpathos for the previous three weeks, sleeping without a roof over my head whenever convenient in the hope of regaining that fragile spacious freedom you only feel in natural surroundings.

For the last few days, I'd been sleeping on a beach in the little cove of Lefkos and already I had itchy feet. It was time to take a look further down the coast at Finiki, which also sits on the edge of the sea, about a dozen kilometres south along the mountainous coastal road - 'It's not far. A bus ride. But nothing there.' - according to Nikitas, my new found Lefkos friend, whose taverna overlooks the beach where I'd been sleeping. He couldn't understand why on earth I'd want to leave his idyll and waste time wandering round Finiki but I was curious and anyway, I could always come back on the Wednesday bus.

At first the journey was fairly uneventful until I looked out of the window and saw the earth getting further and further away, bringing the realisation that our old tin can of a bus was almost interstellar, ambling higher and higher up a narrow mountain track. I don't mind flying through the air but hitting the ground does not have quite the same appeal, so I put all my concentration onto the little plastic number tag on the seat in front and tried to control my imagination. No use. Every few seconds I had to steal a glance through the window at the ferocious Aegean pounding the shoreline way below, and listen to the lady behind me chanting, "Oh, Theus! Oh, Theus! Oh, Theus!" - quite an alarming introduction to quiet little Finiki for wimps like me. Then, if things weren't bad enough, we reached that point when you stop climbing and through the front windscreen there is nothing to see for several moments but sky. A terrified hush filled the bus as we swung to the left leaving a gaping empty space on our right. For what seemed like hours our driver hugged the rock face until he eased our bus into a steady descent and that's when it was suddenly filled with explosive yatterings and prayers of thanks - even from the locals.

In no time at all we were down on the flat and our bus chugged to a full stop all safe and sound and happy again.

From a nearby taverna came the appetizing aroma of someone cooking kalimari. We thanked our saviour driver and some of us even shoved money into his shirt pocket in gratitude for safe arrival (mmm...). Personally, I was more than ready for a large, restorative lemonade.

Although once a modest fishing settlement, now Finiki seemed to be full of flashy plastic furniture like a primary school playground and I could see why Nikitas thought I might prefer something less obvious. So, to stay or not to stay, that was the question. Perhaps the next town, Arkassa, would be more interesting - and yet, the very naivete of the set-up, the evening light, the sound of the sea, perhaps I should simply let it be.


So I had a look around and found two interesting possibilities for low-key camping. One was a rather obvious leeward cave shouting over the village square and the other was an 'on-the-outskirts-less-obtrusive-very-detached' type encampment and on a hill overlooking the sea.



This took the form of a cast-iron double bedstead (on the left in the picture)! I found it waiting outside an isolated and abandoned old stone house on the side of a hill and with no traces of footsteps in the sand except my own. On the bed frame itself were three double mattresses, unbelievably clean and dry. I turned the top one over, spread out my sleeping bag to air and stowed my pack and snorkelling stuff underneath and already it felt like home. Now, time to follow the highway to Arkassa and have a bite to eat. Everything else could wait.

From the first moment, I liked Arkassa. It is an unusual, unpretentious town spreading across the banks of a dried up old river and crossed by a rickety bridge with bow-legged walkways joining each side. The air was clear and everything smelled of rock and coffee and herbs. In the main square alone there were four kafeneia and a minimarket. It had a wide beach offering a wide horizon where one could marvel at the raw crimson sun fading to a tiny dot. There were shops and flowers, neat houses and alleyways and the whole place fair bustled with life.

Round the central square were scattered wooden chairs where people sat in an orange sunset and talked and passed the time of day and the sound of their voices tickled my mood and my mountain horrors soon dissolved. Just off the square was a taverna named, 'The Restaurant Petaluda', the Butterfly Restaurant, and it was while waiting for my dinner that I had the most pleasurable sensation of feeling at home. I happened to catch the eye of the owner and felt so amused by the whole experience that I had to compliment him on his beautiful town and restaurant. He was so delighted he turned and called over his shoulder into the kitchen, "Hurry with the souvlakia and potatas for the English!"

My dinner arrived and I enjoyed the best souvlakia on sticks I had ever tasted although there was far more meat than chips but really, all was delicious, tasty, tender and very too much.
To me, the kafeneion, is the heart of rural life in Greece and across the square from the Petaluda was one such haven. It was called 'Kafeneion Biktoria Kamaratoy'. I went there to relax and write up my notes over a bottle of the local Retsina wine. And it was there that I sat in the company of wild, romantic Greeks, flaying the very air with their humour and their drama as slowly, I confess, I became a little squiffy and smiley and nodded sleepily as they included me in their madness. I have to say I did very little writing.

Later, in strolling back along the coast road in the dark towards Finiki, its telegraph poles above me glimmering in the same way the columns of the Parthenon do at night, I could clearly see the orderly white buildings sprinkled around the bay and over the hills that edge the shoreline with its boats. The narrow strip of road that peels off the highway and curls through the village stood out in the moonlight like a lustrous silver ribbon, and somewhere above, out of sight of the village and high on a hill, in a green and sandy field overlooking the sea, my bed-camp sat patiently waiting alongside the old stone house, guarded by the lovely white-washed chapel of Agia Nikolaos. I promised not to be too late.
Coming off that road, I fell into a seat at the first kafeneion in the village, 'O Nikos', with it's uncommon formal atmosphere and unsmiling owner, and yet it was there, whilst sipping my nightcap and reading my notes that I realised Finiki is wonderful at night, absolutely lonely, with the softest air I have ever known, perhaps the very breath of the Dodecanese. The crystalline waters, the flower displays, the statuesque cypresses standing above the olive trees, the openness of the people, the old and the new, even the bright plastic chairs, where would I have been without them? Then I looked down at my legs and saw how hairy and golden brown they'd become and realised I hadn't actually worn any long trousers for over two months but more importantly it was not just my body that was changing, but my outlook. So I was slowing down into Finiki and already looking forward to a daily dilly-dally to and from Arkassa.


And oh yes, I was very pleased to be actually sleeping on a double bed instead of on the unforgiving sandstone slab that I'd grown accustomed to on the beach at Lefkos. Also, I realised that by stashing my stuff under the bed camp at cosy Finiki, walking the modern highway and playing with the bustley Arkassa, I might have found the best of both worlds.

Drifting off to sleep, I was back in Lefkos at the gentle Cambio Money Exchange waiting for it to open. It sits on the rim of the beach and you can't help but be beguiled by the whispering wash of the tide and its foreplay with the pebbles on the shore and all this beneath a clear blue sunny sky.
In the next second a blood-curdling screech ripped through my reverie wrenching me back to Finiki in a flash! A pride of screaming mad pumas were bickering somewhere down in the depths of the village darkness, or it may just have been some tomcats, but either way, as soon as the noise died down, I fell asleep again at once.

the next day would be Sunday...


***



...kyriaki...

That first night in Finiki I had one of the best night's sleep out under the stars I could ever remember.

Apart from some vivid dreams of strange, dark-skinned men with angular-shaped features and utterances entirely composed around an "Urr" sound, and images of dwarf-like women dressed all in black wearing huge turbans, squealing and scurrying around me as I walked, I don't think I moved once. I woke in the early hours with the words of one phrase running through my head, "The captain's assessment", yet I had nothing at all with which to relate it. But then nothing could upset me. By then I was humming with happiness.


I stretched my toes to the bottom of the bag and dozed until the sun came over the cliffs to warm planet Finiki with its friendly smile. From where I lay in my comfort, I could hear hardly any traffic on the main road and all seemed fairly quiet but I knew it wouldn't last. Standing a little higher than most other buildings on the line towards Arkassa stood a basilica that might prove useful later. Also, I could clearly see 'the water for drinking' fountain on the side of the road where perhaps I could perform my morning ablutions al fresco. First, a walk, a wash and shave, a brush of the teeth - very healthy - but no hurry, plenty of time.

Eventually I climbed down from my bed and walked over to the fountain in the wall to get myself ready for the day. And to wash in that clear spring water was so stimulating that it made me gasp. I checked my face for stings and bites then wondered who owned that face staring back at me in the reflection of my Uncle Fred's camping mirror? The face looked dark, and his head was tender from the sun (he should buy a hat), and his two-day beard made him look really rough, if not really knackered. I decided I had to smarten up. And that's when something caught my eye.

During the ceremonial shaving and washing I had the feeling I was being watched. So using the mirror for a rear view over my shoulder, I was amazed to see a host of about thirty goats and rams in a variety of colours from black to gold, chewing their breakfast and blatantly watching my every move standing amongst the shrubbery on the hillside across the road.

I knew exactly what to do. I started singing to them and that made them even more confused. They became cautious, stopped chewing, and stood and stared in silent awe. Then, once I'd finished my crooning, they began bleating noisily again and clanging their bells in wild appreciation. By now, cars and trucks and mopeds were slowing down to see the mad, reborn Pan, stripped to the waist in the middle of nowhere, and entertaining an audience of goats. Modestly, I took a couple of bows, waved the beasts farewell with, "Same time tomorrow, everyone!", then returned for my day bag before setting off for yoghurt and honey at Biktoria's - or Bikkie's as we locals call it.

I was just about to set off, humming something light and jolly, when I happened to notice the door lock to the old house was not quite clipped shut. So in I went for a snoop around. The rooms were in an advanced stage of dereliction and the house must have been deserted for years. There were several abandoned suitcases in one corner spilling clothes and suddenly I had a choice of two hats. I rejected the baseball cap and chose instead the Disneyland red and white souvenir embroidered with the name Kosmas. I washed it inside and out and wore it all day...except when I went swimming.

At Bikkie's I took my yoghurt and honey into her yard where she kept a beautiful young donkey and ate my breakfast standing up watching the wind blow the grass like waves across the field. Old stone walls, gnarled old trees and footpaths dry and dusty; poppies and pippins were flying like swallows all over the place. Before finishing my yoghurt, I plucked a few figs from a handy tree and even fed some to Bikkie's donkey. He thought they were delicious and ate them from my hand. He even let me take his photograph. I hit the beach and tried to snorkel but my mouthpiece was leaking and I couldn't see anything anyway because the wind was churning up the waves and the sand and those brown strips of seaweed that grow on the seabed and end up scattered along the shoreline. But I did get some more sun and by five o'clock I was burning.

Back in Bikkie's I sat inside. She didn't show me the menu; she simple placed before me a plate of Feta with tomatoes and olives and a couple of portions of chicken. I ordered a bottle of Retsina because the local stuff has quite a remarkable after-taste. I asked the daughter, Lena, where I might find a toualetta and she showed me down to the cellar. When I was ready to leave the loo, I realised she'd accidentally locked me in by taking the door handle with her. I had to get a broom, walk the number of paces to where I figured she sat above then thump on the ceiling. At first no response then a sudden explosion of laughter told me they'd realised what had happened to me. But it was all good fun and in my memory is a lovely summer's afternoon with absolute strangers happily relaxed.

My lemonada is iced. Two pensioners play patience or solo, and the TV shows music videos of Hellenic pop. I'm covered in sand. It's very hot and windy. There's a fly on my foot and one on the table and for a change, I'm indoors. There's a breeze coming through the window and it's more than welcome. I might even buy it a drink.

After my lemonada, I just stroll around the town saying, "Kalimera", to anyone I pass and begin to sense a new calm. I wander towards my sanctuary - the empty basilica - and luckily the door is open. So I climb its tower and from there can just make out the track to the beach. On my way to try another swim I drop in on a beauty of a fragrant minimarket packed with all sorts of goodies and buy a tube of chocolate cream biscuits to revive me. I seem to buy them on every trip to Greece and they never let me down. They are my version of the Elvin 'Waybread' in Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. I munch and crunch as I sing and wave and blink to goats, donkeys, cats and dogs. There are quite a few spring fountains all over this town so you can save quite a few euros in quenching your thirst.

My interest in ancient buildings is amateur but I always feel ruins allow you to touch the past and take you to places the likes of which you might never have dreamed and when I came across what appeared to be several white stone walls and stepped onto a sunken mosaic floor just simply lying in my path, I was a little taken aback and then I stepped upon another, then found a temple, or maybe a chapel. I began to think I'd stumbled on a monastery or perhaps a place of religious study because there were several buildings and doorways that led to places of strange silence. In fact, it was a time machine. Even a door latch old and worn, and who could resist but to press and enter and to my amazement just before me crouched an ancient and heavily carved chest. It was shiny with pride and cracked with age and old and very, very beautiful and just sitting there waiting to be admired.

Then across an ancient plateia, glaring in the heat and silent except for the creak of a solitary cicada. Yet more evidence of mosaic design, and an archway with three arches which may have been part of a chapel or crypt or even erected as a commemoration to something distant past. Christian motifs overplayed all traces of any rival relationship between the ancient Greeks and their gods. And there, in the 3000 BCE perimeter white stone wall, I ran my fingers across a cross, finely etched within a perfect circle. You could clearly see the blade marks of the artist. And age-old column rounds and broken stone reused in all sorts of ways with odd-shaped bricks to make up the long white wall.
At the far end stands another chapel and if you venture down some several worn steps and push against the door you can take refuge from the heat on yet another pebble mosaic floor and inhale the cool revitalising air in the shadowy darkness. That mosaic floor was much older than the actual chapels and I overheard other visitors mumble, "Byzantine", but it was obvious these floors were of a different date because the more recent religious buildings had been erected on top of the older mosaic design in an attempt to censor any trace.

Across the straits from the plateia could clearly be seen the villages where I had stayed the previous week on the fragile tiny island of Kassos.

The day seems hotter than ever and I've got no sun cream because I gave it all away. So I leave the chapels and after another stroll round town decide the best place to take refuge from the sun would be the balcony of my basilica. Once there, I take out my towel and spread it on steps next to some sacks of used candles, kick off my sandals and stretch out for half an hour. But it's hot and stuffy and not long before the flies find me so I don't fall asleep, but it is good to relax lying down out of the wind and out of sight. One thing most precious when sleeping and travelling spontaneously is fresh clean water and privacy. Stretching there in my waxy den, I thought of the kind old man who'd approached me earlier as I was leaving Biktoria's. With a warm smile he'd touched my arm and said he just wanted to thank me for all the help during the war. Then he gave me some bread and carefully explained that I should soak it in water before trying to eat it. I was deeply touched and lost for words.

As I walk past The Petaluda on my way to my village, I wave to the chef, who comes over to me and we slap hands and I compliment him on his beautiful daughters and so he shouts for an ouzo for the English gentleman. And it arrives on a tray with a few olives, some beans, a piece of dried crusty bread and lots of smiles and we all grin and share the moment and feel happily close.


next day would be Monday...

***


Be kind, for everyone you meet is having a hard battle. ~ Plato


...deftera...

I woke slowly and peered at my watch. Seven thirty. During the rest of that night I had woken several times unable to find deep sleep. Tired of changing position over and over again, I just lay there on my luxurious mattresses and gradually became immersed in the wonder of the stillness and absolute glory of the night above my head. And then something happened. I was brought to my wide-eyed, unbelieving senses by something I will never forget. It was the sudden appearance of the biggest and brightest shooting star that I have ever seen, silently streaking and arcing a golden tail right up through the sky like some frightening celestial firework display. Then, in what seemed like a nanosecond, the show was over and all was still again. What a truly remarkable, astonishing spectacle, and when I crawled back inside my bag, I no longer cared whether I slept or not. I was in shock.

This morning, I tidied my camp and went off for a walk down to the old quayside. A fisherman sat resting his back against a wall repairing a huge yellow net. Surrounded by winding cork and lead lines, his big toe pulled the net taught while he worked on the rips and holes to be in time for that day's fishing. An optimistic cat waited in the shadows of the table by his knee.

I went over to the fisherman, 'Kalimerasas. Good morning.'

He returned my greeting with a nod and a muttered, 'Sas.' He looked me over, squinting against the brightness then, with a faint smile, he asked, 'Last night, on your bed, you sleep OK?'

'Yes, thanks. Well, no. Not really. I'm not sure if I dreamed it or imagined it but saw a very big beautiful shooting star tear across the sky. Did you see it? About two hours before the dawn?'
'You say shooting star? Shooting star! Ha! My friend, that 'shooting star' has been coming here for years! Shooting star! Ha!' He gave me a short sarcastic grunt and cast a wink before webbing his nets again and whistling some soft tune to himself.

Coming here for years? Was he serious? Surely not. I laughed, pretending to appreciate his joke, and made my way up towards the highway wondering if the Minoans really were originally from Egypt.

This morning, I seem to have made friends with a rather scruffy orange and blonde collie dog.

I met him meandering along the highway towards Arkassa. He'd stopped to have a pee when I caught up with him. We made eye contact and he looked a little cautious until I asked him if I could pat his head and when he didn't move, I did. He didn't seem to mind at all. I named him, 'Fleabag'.

We walked together like old friends and if I stopped to look at something, he'd stop and wait until I caught up again then walk on ahead. Once I stopped to have a drink of water from my bottle and he waited, watching so intently, I had to pour some into my hand for him to drink. He lapped it up greedily and was so thirsty he almost drained my bottle. At one point he disappeared in the scrub, rootled about, then reappeared and presented me with a white plastic sandal. I snatched it out of his jaws and threw it as far as I could into the distance. Like a really good chum he retrieved it, dropped it at my feet and waited anxiously for me to fling it again, which I did. This became our game as we walked and played towards the turn-off for the 'big town' where I expected he would mark his boundary, and he did - all over the front tyre of a parked bicycle - but he didn't stop there, he came with me along the road as far as a playground and that's where he turned off and went for a sniff out of sight. I carried on up the hill as far as Bikkie's and just before I got to the door, Fleabag reappeared at my side, trust and friendship without doubt or fear.


Walking each day from bed camp to Arkassa was just right for healthy exercise in between yogic lounging. At sunset I exchange smiles with the 14 year old girlies sitting on the wall displaying their feathers and strutting about. The boys play in the mud and don't even notice. A cat with only three paws has just limped by, and talking of cats, I have never known such a town for incomplete cats, mostly with one eye missing but some totally blind. And I keep finding dead things on my walks, petrified mice and birds or dead stiff cats, even a snake, but the flies are very much alive here and this morning, sharing a paddock, a beautiful donkey, a golden goat and a heron. Oh yes, my head is flaking and it always happens so next time, don't give the cream away.

Peeno: I'm hungry.

From inside a taverna there's the song of a violin and a cracked old voice duetting a traditional Arkassaan melody. I'm enjoying using the odd word or phrase and being understood but sometimes I'd rather dance. I walked into the town square and it was full of men sitting in the kafeneia or just sitting and creating a buzz of Greek humanity. Everything seems in order so I have moved now to my final stop before my last walk home.

Sitting at a table in the Petaluda garden, waiting for a dish of kalamari and salad, I realise the Mediterranean diet is another form of grecofilia. It completes me. To the amusement of my wife and friends I have been known to eat it with my eyes closed and after swallowing, there comes a sigh, as I dab my fingertips on my beard until it becomes fragrant with the joy of lemon juice and fish. The table top is zinc but it's also purple, as is the sky - royal purple. Through the window from the kitchen the chef asks me if I still want kalamari and a small salata. Delighted by that dream, I laugh and nod enthusiastically. And my dinner arrives. A masterpiece of flavours rests on my plate. I close my eyes and let the aromas rise from zinging local salad, the hot kalamari in batter, warm bread and cold Retsina, and they always charge the same nominal fee, always the same, and I can't believe they make any money.

I spoke to a man who has lived here for three years and I told him I wanted to move to Arkassa too. He made two strong points. 'First, find someone who knows the Greek but not a Greek - a Greek will cheat you. Second, don't buy at first, rent for a minimum of one year with an option. You don't just buy the house, you buy the neighbours, the community.' Sound advice from Valter.

Afterwards, I return to the Petaluda for my nightcap and chat with another waiter as I ordered Ouzo. When I wanted to leave there was no one to take my money so after waiting a polite while I wandered into the garden restaurant to pay the waiter there but he was busy eating and indicated I could pay some other time

 


My bedcamp will be waiting on the coast. I wander along until I meet a goat track splitting to the left and there I walk and stumble watching the stars all over the sky with dear Fleabag making an appearance out of nowhere and still with that unsure look in his eye until I reach down to pat and stroke him. Just before the turning down to Finiki, he fades into shadow. Maybe he's heard the yowling from those cats.

A blustery west wind raised my expectations of perhaps another drink while watching the sea crash and splash against the moonlit rocks with some Rembetika playing on my Dictaphone - real pleasures. But when I arrived at O Nikos and flopped into a seat, grateful for the rest, and ordering a refreshing Ouzo nightcap, the owner/waiter brought me an ouzo miniature and that, along with the look on his face, told me he was closed. I apologised and left.

The entire village was in darkness and, in fact, everywhere was closed. I should have realised there was nothing else to do when Fleabag lolloped off. Every night in Karpathos shows you an exceptional sunset. I must sleep. I found my bed and said goodnight to the day.



the following day would be Tuesday...




***


...triti...

There is a fullness of all things, even of sleep and love. ~ Homer, The Illiad

Seven a.m. and my last full day before I return to Lefkos tomorrow. I feel happy and glad I came to Finiki because it has been about not expecting anything but just accepting things as they really are.

I wash and shave at the chapel tapple then pack my things and being naked appeals so I go for a walk amongst the rocks and boulders in the wilderness and scrub; such an indescribably liberating feeling being naked and strolling about in the warm air without any sign of humanity. This place is as timeless as my nakedness. No sense of past or future, there is only now - the present moment. A warm wind blows in from the sea, fresh and clean and friendly. The sun is just over the mountains but already the day is golden. I have a dry cough. But what a world beneath my feet! I felt welcome. Rocks and stones, soil and sand, lizards, pipits, curlews, wild orchids, plants and shrubs, trees and the stillness of the ocean. All of these things seemed familiar, friendly, however temporary. And I knew I had changed because whatever it was that once motivated me to pursue wealth and fame, or to escape suffering and danger, had completely disappeared. I was all I needed.

Then - acute embarrassment! Out of nowhere, about 100 metres to my left, a man appears and he's clambering over the rocks in my direction. He is dressed in waiters' garb of crisp white shirt and dark trousers, and appears to be on some sort of mission. I crouch brown behind some boulders, hoping my body in its tan will be invisible against the sand and he won't notice me. As he gets closer he changes direction and storms off down towards the sea and out of sight. Relief! Whatever he was doing, I don't think he saw me. For a few moments I'd felt liberated and confident in my simple nudity, and then quite sorry at having to return to my shorts and the world of cluttered conditioning.

So I walk up to the chapel and sit inside in perfect silence and close my eyes in some kind of fragile spaciousness. I think of this Greece in all her September heat. My metal sunglasses so hot I can't wear them; my sun lotion, it comes from the bottle as hot as tea; of starry, starry nights and shooting stars and the moon in her charming stillness. And then I just sit and watch my breath.

I opened the chapel door and the sky was cloudy and dark but the clouds changed to white as I walked to Arkassa with Fleabag alongside carrying a stick in his jaws. If there'd been any flagstones the sun would have cracked them but as it was, I just felt tired with the walk where every now and then Fleabag would drop the stick in front of me and look expectantly. He wanted to play just like we did yesterday with the plastic sandal. Each time I reached for the stick, he'd jerk forward but I'd beat him to it, pick it up and fling it into the bushes. He'd ignore this manoeuvre as cheating and find a plastic bottle or bring me something else instead. Plastic bottles are slippery when wet with saliva as I'm sure many of you appreciate, and they bob about when dropped on uneven surfaces so I had very little to do to keep him playing except kick the bottle every now and then. But eventually he grew bored with that and once in the town he joined some kids playing with a ball. They seemed to know him and it wasn't long before they were making a fuss and feeding him and that's when I think he returned to his life there. I hope we meet again sometime.
I went back to Bikkies for a frappe and to read my book. Kiria Bikkie came over and sat down offering a little plate of grapes and some cactus fruit but insisting I understood that there must be several minutes gap between eating the different fruits, to help digestion. I spent a couple of hours in there being fussed over by Bikkie and her daughter until it was time to go.

But the biting heat slowed me down. I just about made it down and up the side of the creek then up the steps to the church. A true test of endurance. I sat in the cool of the balcony with my friends, the used candles, for about an hour until the flies found me again and I had to escape.
By then the sky was blazing and so oppressive I began to feel persecuted and miserable again and really had to find some shade. Then I remembered the chapels and once down there I took some photos of the floor mosaics and the beach but no matter how I kept myself occupied I have to say I have never known a day so hot or felt so trapped.

Then the searing oppression faded into a beautiful soft evening and took me for a wander through some shrubs and trees, now alive with the business of countless bees and that well-worn track brought me through to postage stamp vineyards where the vines grow along the ground amongst fig trees, and past one secret little olive grove with its wooden shack and kittens feeding from their mamma outside whilst papa keeps a wary eye the human stranger cooling his sunburned head beneath the sprinkling hose moisturising the vegetable patch and the two wooden chairs and the table under the lean-to and all the rest of homely living bits and pieces snaggling and bedraggling in a perfect little unpretentious haven. As the stranger left, the cats did not even twitch and neither did the bees; and I wonder how it is that bees don't fall when flying through a shower.

I stop at a kafeneion for a coffee amongst the old silent men and when one goes to pay he also pays for my Elleniko kafe - so even though we are strangers we are brothers. I just said out loud to myself how much I have loved this visit to Greece and how so much feels so familiar.

So I bade my goodbyes with handshakes and hugs to Biktoria and Lena and the friendly waiters of Petaluda and traced my way that moonlit night along the old goat track that leads past the monastery, the empty river gorge, the basket ball court, the bee hives and the little vineyard and on towards the scattered stars of Finiki waiting with my footprints in her sand around my bed and all the while I wondered if Fleabag was alright.

Just over twenty minutes later I stepped off the main track and cut down another, winding down among the planes into my village, its sawing crickets serenading, but instead of flopping into the first bar off the road as was my custom, something in the smell of pines and sage and thyme on that last night drew me up the little hill and past my bed from where I could see across to the distant wide horizon. I looked up into the night and saw galaxies and somehow felt involved, a part of the energy, in the turning of the earth.

I undressed and listened to the deep silence over the windless ocean. Half way to climbing onto my friendly bed I stopped and turned and once again picked my way in the dark down to the pebbly shore. I found an old wooden boat and there I sat and listen to the quiet. The evening air came in naturally with each easy breath, clearing and settling my mind. Everything was still and calm. I seemed to have left my body and my soul back at bedcamp.

After a little while, I had this gradual realisation that whatever it was I took myself to be had disappeared, and that 'me', the individual, together with the whole of existence, is but one totality which cannot be divided; that my self-nature is in everything and everything's in my self-nature and that life is dear to all. I was part of a true reality in space without limit, and time without end. I seemed to see my basic nature as being together with the whole of existence.

The happy and open, vitality of life.

 



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