A perfect auburn morning with only one thing left to do before our five hour jaunt to the airport.
Quickly, I dress and cross the street to search for the lane that leads to the track that leads to the road that I can see from our balcony. The road that climbs and climbs the steep mountain on our left. I know it winds into the clouds but the boy in me wants to know where it goes after that.
So through the abandoned churchyard conscious of my crunch
then along the track that lifts through some low-flying daddy-long-legs up past what appears
to be a box on wheels powered by a 354cc Honda lawn-mower engine.
Mother of Zeus! How I'd love one of those!
Suddenly I'm walking on asphalt, and walk and walk I do - high
above the village.
I pass a goat, she suddenly shy, tethered to a fence,
then a man with a bulky sack resting on a bench;
and a widow lady waiting for a car coming up behind.
And still I tramp and tramp.
My calves complain. The resin-scented air is intoxicating. My breathing loud and harsh.
I meet a flowering cactus, tall as a man, and wish him 'good morning' - and we nod.
Then a teenage girl in party frock, humming secrets to herself, smiling brightly ...
The last road sign's behind me, the one with diagonal line, and before I can catch my breath,
I turn to see.
The village is lost from view. Almost without thinking, I step off
into the air and float above the bluff and the gorge, its escarpment and crevasse - and still below me the road tracks on
I come down to earth with some sort of sense of achievement because at last I know the truth.
I stride on past jumpy, cautious cats and straggling, grumbling chickens with their own peculiar smells. Fig and orange and lemon trees, rose bushes, apricot and vine. Poppies carpet the olive groves and bay and basil, rosemary and thyme, parsley and elder go mad all over. Doves fall through the air for fun, sparrows chirp and chatter and the air is filled with the screaming of swifts and sparrows below the patrolling lammergeyer and somewhere a cockatiel squawks in all that crazy consciousness.
It's just nature in a fluttering, never-ending flow.
We sit at a
table on the pavement outside the bus station kafeneio and chat to the lady
proprietor's daughter, Nyfoula, until she leaves for college. The air glitters
and smells of leaves. For her the village is spiritual and will keep its honour
always. And it is true this mountain has moments of deep peace and tranquility,
as well as delicious cheese and ham toasties and really amazing, satisfying
frappes for breakfast.
Across from me a lady peels almonds into a basket. The older men who sit and argue over their coffees are well-dressed in the main, no careless 'anything-will-do' for them here. Clean, open neck shirts, pressed trousers of a gentlemanly antiquity, polished shoes and respectable v-necked pullovers when it's too cool for old bones.
We give up trying to identify the dozen or so different shrubs and trees that stand in Melina Merkouri plateia and when Nyfoula leaves, wishing us a safe journey, our conversation fades to thoughtful pauses till I spot our Romany lady neighbour shopkeeper and ask if I might take her photo. She has the strong beautiful features and dark steady eyes that you see in the bust of Rodanthi. She isn't very enthusiastic but lets me anyway.
And then the bus comes.
There is always that moment as you leave your idyll when your mind switches off and before you know it, you're on your way, if only in your imagination. But that morning, as we stood to climb aboard, we were pulled right back to the moment by a voice calling from the other side of the street.
"My friends! Don't forget your water. Kalos taxidi."
It was the man who'd helped me use the well-tap and for once, all I could do was wave.
Now the airport...there's a five hour delay before our flight...we don't mind and take it as an unexpected extension to our visit...ten hours since we left Kritsa but then ...all is peaceful in the orchard...
In Kritsa we found a way of being still, of slowing down, of becoming ourselves. Becalmed.
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