Monday, 15 June 2015

Coming Home at Last

Once upon a time, there was a curious girl. A girl who wanted to see the whole world by the age of thirty and be her own mistress.

This girl was me, the twenty-three years old version of me who lived in the moment and dreamt of nothing but traveling the world from one end to the other. And yes, to make a living as a writer doing so.

In this aspect little has changed. I still long to see the world and be part of it. I still want to explore all parts of the world but at the same time, I have come to understand the importance of appreciating the places that move me and where I feel at home.

One of the few countries to stir these strong feelings within me was Greece, and in particular the Cyclades island of Ios.

I was only 23 years old when I first sailed into the small port town of Ios. I immediately sensed that I was coming home, this island called to me; her unique charm with the light breeze that greeted me by bringing the fragrant of the isles to me for the very first time.

I was home and I knew it. 

My first job was at the Indian restaurant in the port. I had never waitressed before and I was terrible at it. The hours were long and the appropriators sometimes harsh to a novice waitress. I lived in a house in the port, a house with a gate, low white brick fence and a garden with wild vegetation growing freely.

I lived with my friend Eva and an Australian we met on the ferry out to Ios. Ios was chosen for the mere sake that it was suggested to us. And it was a good suggestion.

I fell in love with the island immediately. We bonded and I felt as if I was the luckiest girl on the planet because I was staying for the whole summer. 

I had walked into a beautiful dream and made it my reality. My daily life consisted of quiet and sometimes jamming days on the magnificent beaches that inhabit the shores of Ios. 

After a month, my friend Eva left for Cuba but I stayed behind. I knew I had found a place where I belonged and I couldn't leave this magical world that was now mine to make my own.

For most of the season, I worked in a nightclub on the main road that was called Star and worked there with the best co-workers a girl can ask for.

I returned the next year for another season and to my surprise that second season was even better. A heaven on earth where I blossomed. 

I returned in 2006 for a holiday and as was to expected I struggled to leave after only two weeks. I was home and I couldn't imagine leaving. I stayed an extra day that year and yet it was excruciatingly hard to leave. So hard my heart quenched as I watched it disappear into the horizon. 

At the time I lived in London so it wasn't like I was returning to a hellhole of any kind. It was just so hard to say goodbye to where my heart felt at home.

That was also the year I fell in love with the love of my life. He was already in my heart, and there were times I wished he was there with me.

Twelve years later, this dream is finally coming true. The love of my life goes to Ios with me tomorrow night and my heart is bursting with excitement.

But first, yes first, we came to an island of which I had heard many good things, Folegandros, a mere half an hour - if that - on the ferry from Ios. 

This is his first island, the island with which he has fallen in love and I know it will always be his first love of all the Greek islands. He now understands how it was possible for me to stay in the island that immediately inhabited my heart for three months and more without ever feeling the slightest urge to return to the outside world.

Greece is truly the temptress of Europe. 
The land that draws us to her shores through reputation and pure visual stimulation. 

The beaches are as beautiful and actually far more beautiful than they look on the pictures. The villages and the incense-scent that fills the streets delights the senses. 

To be here with my husband, the love of my life, and see him fall in love with Folegandros fills my heart with joy. I know now that we will return to Greece over and over in the years to come. 

The spell has been cast and he too is now its avid lover.

I, the long lost lover of the isles, simply wonder how I could ever stay away for so long. 

Greece is a place of magic, a place where magic lives in the air. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

The Aroma before the Storm

When the season of darkness is upon us and a storm strikes on cold night, nature's omen awakens the senses with the intense aroma of the sea's native drifter, the seaweed. 

The heartless blizzard on the horizon threatens a ruthless attack on the shores of man's city fortress and only the curious and the cautiously reckless venture to the forefront of the storm as it prepares to violently slap the weak population. 

The temptation to venture to the forefront of the watery land is too sweet to resist when the alluring aroma of the seaweed calls for attention.

The curious and cautiously reckless indeed venture to the forefront of the storm, briefly before the heart of the storm overwhelms the world with the harsh whistle that penetrates the inner ear, and then slams the rain and snow to the fortresses of man's inhabitation. 

The dark sea in response to the rising wind is rowdy, frightening the living from entering its world by forcefully warning the powerless from entering a world that is not for the faint-hearted. 

The aroma of the storm is that of the seaweed, salty and savory but delicately sweet. Too tempting to resist. But then, when the rage of the storm is imminent even the bravest and reckless escape to safety. 


Thursday, 1 January 2015

A Path in Life

1st of January, the first day of the year 2015, and the day after we bid farewell to 2014.

When the year ends, the gate to the year that is about to pass into the void of time is closed and the gate to the next year opens up before us. Even though we can always look through the rails to cast a glance at the years that are behind us, there is nothing that we can do to change the decisions that led to our actions in the years that is now behind us. 

Some believe in destiny, that we are meant to take one path rather than another because the universe intended us to do so. The ideology is appealing because it is romantic and gives meaning to our lives. It is no surprise that destiny is a source of great writing for many writers.

To me, destiny is more than anything the consequence of a decision. One decision leads to another, and often these decisions are defined by an event. This event is usually one that touches us deeply and affects the next big decision we make in life.

After I began reading Kate Atkinson's new novel, Life after Life, I found myself deeply contemplating the many paths that are before each one of us as we live our lives.

Often, we base our decisions on events we plan for in the future, events such as studying a certain subject on a university level, traveling, moving somewhere new or old, getting married or having children or pets. We are thinking about an empty slot in time, a slot for which we have build a skeleton to the story of our lives. 

Kate Atkinson in Life After Life raises many questions about life and why it is that our life is the way it is, and how our decisions affect the world in which we live. It took me a long time to finish the book because a part of me did not want to finish it. It seemed impossible for there to be an answer to this riddle of life and I liked the riddle to remain unresolved. 

I always found myself thinking about my latest reading session for days afterwards. While most days I couldn't wait to make time to keep reading, there were others I needed a few days to mend my broken heart after a sorrowful chapter. I finally finished the book the day before New Years Eve, and to the questions that had an answer - an answer as absolute as it can be seeing how vague and open to interpretation the questions her story raised in my own mind - I found the answer for which I looked. 

An answer to one of my questions is that the great often die young because to achieve greatness great sacrifices must be made.
The answer to another is that we have choice. As much as we rely on plans for the future, we must too rely on our feelings and intuition and let life happen rather than organizing it far in advance.

The answer to the question of how violence affects lives and whether one act of violence is likely to lead to another is one that I still wonder about. Are we doomed to a life of violence because one person inflicted violence upon us, or is it a circle that we can escape? Does it depend on the state of mind, or the support we receive, or the lack thereof, that we overcome the experience? Do we bury it on the inside or speak out against the person who violated us? 

And how does the world around us affect our personal relationship? Can the mood in society be so dominating and all-empowering that the people we love change and become someone else? Someone who perhaps does everything in his or her power to control our lives and condemn us to death without knowing so themselves? When does the assumption of doing the right thing become a selfish act?

To neither one of these questions do I have an answer. They are so tightly bound to the individuals to whom it happens and the circumstances in which they find themselves. 

What I do know, and what I don't take for granted, is that I am not bound to one destiny above  all others. I am responsible for the decisions I make and once I have made a decision, I can stand by it or change my mind altogether if the decision is not yet set in stone.

When I woke up this morning, I found myself looking back to January 1st 2005. On that day, I woke up in a cold, unheated apartment with an old friend of mine after working late at a Scottish bar near Pont du Neuf in Paris, France. We were both pretty broke but we were very young and we still lived for the moment. That year brought love and heartbreak into my life, both of which taught me a great deal and eventually led me to find the love of my life with whom I celebrate nine years in the summer of 2015.

In life, mistakes are made along the way but no mistake is so great that there is no point of return. Life is after all not only black, gray and white. It is a magnificent rainbow arrayed in all the colours of the world, and not only those we can see.

The more colours we see in the rainbow, the more we open ourselves up to all the wonderful things life has to offer. The best of memories are made when all our senses are wide open to the magic of life.