The days are hot, the nights slightly less so. It’s as different from Alabama as it could possibly be. Any shade is man made, except for the old grove of olive trees, but that’s at the other end of the island.
I miss trees. Haven’t been here all that long, but already I miss trees.
The heat doesn’t bother me so much, I kind of adapted to it while I lived in the south, so even though this heat is different – dryer – it doesn’t bother me like it does Kate. But there’s always a taste of salt in the air and the glare can be horrific. Sunglasses have become part of our ritual and I’ve stocked up on a couple more pairs, just in case.
But I do miss trees. And songbirds. And the lazy humid heat of a southern afternoon; sitting in my favorite rocker on the porch watching the sun go down and the fireflies come out, sipping on an ice cold glass of sweet tea. Here, it doesn’t matter which island you’re on, they’re all basically the same. Only difference is the number of tourists flocking to it, and the amount of ‘civilization’ they’ve added to accommodate them.
Dyvos is different, of course, but the getting there had us wondering just what the hell we’d done.
I could have stayed in Athens much longer; the Parthenon – the whole Acropolis – fascinated me, touched something deep inside me. But I could tell Kate was getting restless and our bare bones budget wouldn’t allow for unlimited hotel rooms.
The ferry to Mykonos was no bass boat, which was the only boat I’d ever been in. Or on. I don’t know what I was expecting but certainly not this monster which swallowed up cars and regurgitated them at journey’s end. And logically I knew the ancient Greece I’d studied in school no longer existed except in its ruins. But I wasn’t expecting the tourist trap that Mykonos turned out to be. As Kate said, the island was nothing but one giant night-club.
But it was not our final destination, Dyvos was. Kate had made a slight miscalculation despite all her paperwork. No ferry ran directly from Mykonos to Dyvos; another leg was added to our journey along with another ferry. We boarded a smaller boat and headed off for Tinos. Kate had talked to the ticket seller, despite the fact that she spoke not a word of Greek and his English was rather limited. It looked to me like they were using sign language, with all the arm waving that went on. I was just glad to be leaving Mykonos.
“I must be getting old,” I told Kate. “This isn’t fun. I want to sit in one place longer than a day and know I don’t have to move.”
The short layover in Athens had rejuvenated Kate. I wish it had me. Despite the pull of history, I felt exhausted. Kate said it was the letter I’d felt obligated to write Patton.
“He doesn’t deserve to know a damn thing,” she said fiercely.
“Kate, he’ll have me listed as a missing person; if there could be an Amber alert for a woman my age, he’d invoke it. He’ll stir up a lot of trouble for a lot of people. It’s only fair to let him know I’m alive and to expect divorce papers soon. As soon as I figure out how to go about it,” I added uncertainly.
“It’s not something that has to be done immediately. Give yourself a break. Get those bags under your eyes unpacked.”
I took her at her word and settled in a semi-comfortable chair. And fell asleep. I mean, I really fell asleep. I’m still not quite sure what happened, but somehow we missed the ferry that was to take us to Dyvos. Kate said it was because she couldn’t wake me up; I think she wandered around too long talking to people, or trying to talk to people, and forgot the time. It was probably a combination of both and I guess it doesn’t really matter, because bottom line, we missed the ferry and had to forage for another ride. I was definitely awake now, adrenalin had seen to that.
Tinos is an island of churches and religious festivals. Not as bustling as Athens, not as raucous as Mykonos. Still, from the little I saw, it had its tourists. Not that I saw much. Mostly I stood and watched the little ferry we were supposed to be on chug away out of the harbor. Neither of us wanted to wait another day so we trolled the harbor looking for another boat going our way. We must have sounded ridiculous and looked even more so: fixed grins and repeating the only Greek we knew – “Dyvos? Dyvos?” It would take a small miracle.
It seemed appropriate, Tinos being a religious center and all, that we found our miracle. Such as it was. The boat was an overgrown fishing boat, rather dilapidated and obviously it wasn’t used in the tourist trade. But its captain nodded vigorously when we inquired “Dyvos?” and we looked at each other and threw our suitcases on board before we could change our minds. One of the suitcases landed on a crate of chickens who objected loudly. The captain accepted our fare with a grin and helped us aboard.
The deck was crowded with people and livestock; what seemed like a whole herd of goats, the aforementioned crate of chickens and another of ducks. Except for the prow, where a dun colored cow with lyre shaped horns stood in isolated splendor. Two men attended her, deep in conversation. I thought it strange the gray headed senior seemed to defer to his younger companion. But my attention was soon diverted by the chatter going on around us.
They were an eclectic bunch, a mixture of the old and the new. There were older women wearing black dresses and colorful head scarves, and younger women wearing shorts or short summer skirts. The men, no matter their age, seemed to have a unofficial uniform – white shirts with rolled up sleeves, and dark pants.
There seemed to be nowhere to sit, except the bird crates. I had visions of a pecked bum and elected to stand. So we corralled our suitcases together and stood guard over them. I mean, of course these people would covet our American riches, the costume jewelry that came to me from Mom, and Kate’s authentic menorah which looked gold but she said would break into little pieces if you dropped it.
At first we were eyed with suspicion and some amusement. As they got used to us we were ignored. And then, without words, somehow we were accepted, you could feel it. A couple of women smiled at us and one of them gestured to Kate’s hair. Kate made a face and shrugged and the women laughed.
There was a lot of noise when we arrived at Dyvos, the pilot revving the engine, if you can do that with a boat, although it stayed parked at the dock. Some of the men began offloading livestock and everyone else gave advice at the top of their lungs. We managed to make it to land behind the goats and ahead of the cow, and climbed the crumbling stone stairs that meandered up to the town before turning to watch.
The sea was a brilliant turquoise, a true turquoise and the sky arched high above it, a deep, perfect blue. Whitewashed houses reflected the sun’s blaze and softened it. There was a glow about everything, everything. It was a painter’s light, I know what they mean by that now, and oh God, I wished Lynda could be here. Her painter’s soul would have loved it.
But will we?
We’re here. Here in a strange land, isolated by our upbringing and our language, all our bridges burned.
It’s a shame we never knew how brave we were.