On Joining the Challenge of 30 Days of Writing: Write Yourself Alive

I read the rules today …oh, boy.

I started the 30 Day Write Yourself Alive Challenge late so I didn’t read the original text until this morning and discovered that by looking up and reading the rules, I had broken the first rule about writing before I did FaceBook or anything else – other than a hug and oil pulling and fresh lemon juice. And I hope if I look needy enough, Athan will make some espresso. I did switch the hot water heater on for my shower, but in compensation for breaking rule one, will shower later – after the spree with words. Actually it is self-serving compensation because our little bathroom is frigid and I’d just as soon delay my body brushing ritual until the ambient heat has found its way into the corner of the miniscule shower.

Today my inspiration comes from that very water heater switch glowing green in the electrical panel that lacks a certain aesthetic, yet graces our living room wall. It’s not the obvious analogy of switching on creativity or the muses. No, it is about not taking things for granted. Like hot water. Or water itself, for that matter. The simple pleasure of standing under the warm cascade of soothing, cleansing water is one of life’s greatest pleasures for me. Not quite as luxurious as lowering into a steaming tub scented with rose, but that is not an option here. No tub.

Water Heater

Recently I mentioned how I missed my tub, when chatting with a friend, a Shiatsu practitioner of immense and sweet healing depth. She tilted her head as if she didn’t understand. She has a tub in her home here on the island where she does treatments. I was secretly vying to rent it by the hour. Water is dear here on the island. It is delivered several times daily by heavy boats that glide into port slung deeply, discharge the salty cargo and slip quietly away on the top of the waves. The cost of electricity is no joke either and I realized that my proposal seemed not indecent, but pure folly in its recklessness.

I am learning in this economically beleaguered country of Greece that simple pleasures are precious and what is truly meaningful to the soul is here in abundance.

If I have sacrificed the pleasure of bathing on a damp and cold winter evening, I can plunge daily into the colour and light of such magnificence that each day I drink in the shades of the sea and sky in their subtle grays of silver and dove like on this rainy day or in their extravagance of teals and aquas and emeralds of days with high skies. I say drink it in with all solemnity. I actually stand and let my eyes fill up with every colour and let that colour spill into the empty hollow of my body and fill it until it is overflowing with the most nourishing energy I have known. I drink in the very light that I AM.

I have abandoned taking pictures to describe this beauty and its subtle shift as the wind blows and ruffles darker blue along the surface of the water. At night as the lights sparkle in reds and pinks and yellows across the dark expanse of the never sleeping sea, I know I am a light sparkling across the way to those clustered on the mountainside and shores. Can I capture that on Instagram? Nope.

Last fall, I sat each evening in rapture, here on the balcony overlooking the Aegean. The sun would set and the first star blink on the deepening sky of that transparent mystical purple-blue that somehow rises directly from bright coral. And then those lights brightening on the distant shores as the night smoothed all edges. There, Pireaus, Athens, Salamina, Attika, and ‘way over there the magnificent mountains of the Peloponnese. I would write and write and write, nearly illegible scribblings in pencil on thick pads of newsprint.

The night is alive on the sea – with ferries gliding by silently, bright as floating festivals, and fishing boats that appear as small as birds slipping between the swells, known only by a bobbing pilot light. And then would come the water boat. Barely lit with running lights, but for the glow of the multi windowed bridge overlooking the slow progress through the waters. A great volume of water, heavy in a boat in greater volumes of water. The way is ponderous and slow so as not to spill a drop. The decks are low with open rails and when the waves are high they sluice over and I wonder how it doesn’t sink. In the night I see silhouettes of the crew running along the raised horizontal gangways as the vessel glides into our tiny harbour here below us and snugs up to the wharf.

Water Tank

The big weathered red water tank which, at first, I though marred my perfect view of the little marina and its matched set of white fishing boats with bright hellenic blue, one man cabins, is now our familiar point of reference. As we round the corner of Aegina Island heading to the mainland on the ferry, we strain to see our little house set midway up the hill. We bought binoculars, but they are too heavy to transport on our trips to town, so we make do with our bare eyes and line up the little blued domed, white washed chapel on the top of the hill and angulate that with the red water tank and the modern square stone house that rests on the slope just below us.

Distance is deceiving on the sea and one time when we first moved here I unfurled and waved a huge saffron hued sarong back and forth as Athan passed by on the ferry. Ferries are huge and hold cars and busses and trucks and hundreds of people. And yet when I was incredulous that I couldn’t be seen with my enormous bright flag, I realized that the ferry passed by like a toy against the distant shores of Salamina. I know the bustle on board, but saw no movement at all on the distant decks, let alone Athan at the rail straining to see my yellow flag.

Today as I look out, anchored tankers, deep red and black which I know from passing close on the ferry, are piled high with containers of yellow and red and green and blue, stamped with the names of distant ports. But today the sky is low and grey and clouds obscure the tips of Immitos and Parnitha. The tankers are sombre and darkened shades. They wait, silent, huge and still until the call to go into port and deliver their goods. One day next week, one of those containers will deliver our carpet and mattress. And in a few more weeks, our china and kitchen things and our precious, precious books.

We will prepare for this arrival by going to IKEA and buying Billy bookcases and such stuff as to house our familiar things efficiently in this little house that has become our home. On Monday, we will go into Athens to see about my visa. I applied six months ago and we blamed the bureaucracy for not receiving it. However, on closer inquiry found that it had been duly processed within one month but returned because it had the wrong passport number on it. When we called hopeful each passing week, we were told it was not there. Ahhh, can’t blame the government machine, only accept a simple human error. I’ve made a few myself.

Today the only brightness out our window is the dancing blooms of the wild mustard growing in our yard. A yard, not trimmed and groomed in North American propensity toward control of nature. No, our yard is growing wild and free and could probably do with a goat and a chicken or two. The greens of grass and pine and the red berried mastika bushes, protected as ancient treasures, are subdued in the rain. The bare fig trees are sprouting green tips and soon the bougainvillea will be re-inspired by warmer dryer days.

Flowering Mustard

So here in my new home for the next year, I will embrace the inconvenience of having to flip the hot water switch. I will shower quickly and not waste water nor out-distance the tank’s capacity. I will try not to flood the bathroom floor when I knock the shower curtain with my elbow trying to shave my legs in a twenty four by twenty four inch enclosure. I will remember my sunken jacuzzi tub with billowing bubbles and appreciate that memory from another chapter. I like the simplicity this life prescribes. It makes me more efficient. It makes me more appreciative. It makes me more reverent of the important qualities of life.

I have shared my three hours writing with Athanasius who, across our round table, has been equally diligent at his computer. He has made an important discovery in the EU regulation on health claims of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It is his passion and a mission as he researches and writes on the ancient Greek diet and wild olives in particular. We have read to one another.

Eggs are now boiling in a noisy pot on the stove. I know they have cracked but their bright orange yolks the same colour as that long ago flag on the balcony, will spill out over the fresh mountain greens that Athan prepared last night. They are rich with olive oil and lemon.  We will sweeten our espresso with honey from our local apiary where Giorgos does not feed his bees glucose in the winter.

The day is getting more monochromatic as the rain becomes heavier. It’s Saturday. Perhaps a nap after my shower.

Geia Sous!



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