Saturday, 9 August 2014

Courage to Lose Sight of the Shore

This may be a little hard to follow. Bear with me. In the long run, I hope things will be clearer.

My friend Fran, who once went to Crete for a holiday and stayed for ten years, wrote: ‘We must always trust and follow our hearts. It can take us to some very happy places.’

This year for me has so far been full of adventure, which is what I hoped for, after two years when – in spite of being in a place I love, living my dream life – I spent too much time having to be cautious as I fell pregnant and miscarried and then did IVF and, in spite of everything looking apparently excellent, didn’t get pregnant at all. I’d had enough of doctors and hospitals for a while.

People ask from time to time how Falling in Honey ‘ended’, and the answer is that it didn’t. The media, for whose interest I was certainly very grateful, wanted a story that ended with me ‘finally finding true love’. But my life is messier and more complex than newspaper stories (as if you didn’t know that). Most lives probably are.

There was an Epiphany on the sixth of January. There was happiness and there was sadness. Then, after saying I wasn’t going to Australia, I went to Australia for six weeks to try things out. I returned to Tilos for six weeks to pack up ready to fly back to Australia, with the plan that I’d stay until next year.

It wasn’t so easy. I almost couldn’t leave Tilos. I knew it was only temporary, but it was harder than I’d expected to cut ties for a while with the place that has been such a reliable source of happiness.

Someone wrote me a kind message about my book around that time, and wished me ‘smooth sailing’ and blessings on life’s journey. Then I saw on her website she had a quote from Andre Gide: ‘Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.’

I booked my ticket. Greece would still be waiting when I returned. Lisa would be fine in my absence.

Michaelia asked one morning how I was, and I replied I was very well, but a little sad because I was leaving. ‘Look,’ she said. ‘If you’re just going to Australia for a holiday, then don’t go. But if you’re going for something more serious,’ which she knew I was, ‘why not?’

Knowing I’d be gone for a while intensified my feelings for Tilos, brought them into focus. For the last week, I gave up trying to work and simply made the most of every single day, walking as far as I could. I slept outside on a mattress on the terrace, under the stars. Crows woke me at dawn. I drank fresh lemonade made from the lemons that fell off the tree every day. The kitchen smelled of melon. There were beach days and taverna nights.

Up early one morning – though Lisa had woken me during the night cracking bones between her teeth, then padding over to my mattress to lick me through the mosquito net – I drove us down to Livadia for 7 a.m., picked up breakfast at the bakery then walked to Tholos for a blissful couple of hours on the dark sand alone. The swimming was wonderful. It was hot work going back up the hill just before midday. Back home, I ate cold melon then fell asleep.

That evening, we walked to Ayios Andonis in the evening. I watched the beautiful golden sun set behind the island, then started walking to the harbour, and a red sliver of sun came into view again and I had a second chance to watch it set. Stopped for a drink and a chat by the sea, and when I got up to leave, a bank of fog was spreading over the island. After the intense heat of the day, it was delicious to walk home through damp cloud.

The following afternoon was my first ever walk to Agriosykia. I was determined to do as much as I could. Long, tough walks, swimming at my favourite places... 


...and if Michaelis invited me to help pick watermelons at 7.30 a.m. one morning, that's what I'd do.

‘I catch, I no catch? Because I don’ know exackly.’

Michaelis was shuffling around the field of watermelons, a roll-up in his mouth, his shoulders hunched. With baggy shorts falling off his hips, he peered at melons twice the size of his head, trying to determine which ones were white enough to be sweet.

‘I no wan’ catch if no ready. Where is Grigoris? He go somewhere with the goats.’ The Norwegians who just moved to Megalo Horio were getting married and needed watermelons for the meal, and their friend Michaelis had arranged to buy them from Grigoris the farmer. After a drink with them at Kali Kardia the previous evening, I was invited along. But there was no sign of Grigoris and he wasn’t picking up his phone. Finally, after we’d stacked half a dozen watermelons, Michaelis called Sofia, Grigoris’ wife, at the kafeneion. He hung up the phone and cursed.

‘Grigoris drink coffee!’

We picked another half dozen and carried them to the gate, covering them with tarps so the crows didn’t eat them. I picked up a rock to hold the tarp in place and Michaelis told me to be careful of scorpions. I walked back, taking a look inside the little church of St George that I’d never really looked at before behind the football field, with ancient marble columns worked into the bricks. As I walked back through the village, I noticed almonds drying on a table in a courtyard on the way up to my house. Those last days, I wasn’t just learning how much I loved Tilos, but the pleasure of making the most of every day.

15 comments:

  1. It sounds like there are major changes going on in your life ... I hope everything works out for you!

    My experience is that when a major change is needed, it always feels much better when you're through, even if it is a bit rough when you're in the middle of it.

    Good luck!

    And btw, that last sentence in your post is lovely.

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  2. I finally got to visit your beloved Tilos right after the Orthodox Easter. I thought I would be able to get around and see just about everything in five days... I was wrong... There are so many things to do and see that I reckon you need at least ten days just to see the basics... It is a truly blessed island...

    I hope you find what you are looking for... before eventually making your way back to Tilos. I guess Australia will be a nice change...

    Hopefully next time I get to go to Tilos I'll actually get to meet you...

    Best of luck !!!

    Ioannis from Discovering Kos

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    1. I'm so pleased you agree that you need more than five days in Tilos, even though it's such a small island - it takes you by surprise, doesn't it?! I hope to meet you next time - maybe next year? Life in Australia is so different, but I'm here for a good reason, and it's an opportunity to see a country I never expected to visit. See you in Tilos!

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    2. Oh, I just saw your blog posts about Tilos at http://www.discoveringkos.com/ - wonderful!!

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    3. Yes just noticed your post on Facebook!!! Thanks for that... Yes I might try to make it next year around Easter again probably. It was nice and quiet then. I really want to do the Aghios Panteleimon - Eristos hike... So see you in Tilos hopefully... Have fun in Australia, I am sure it's an amazing country...

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    4. I still haven't done that walk yet! I really want to. Easter would be a great time to do it. In the meantime, I will enjoy my time on this very big island...

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  3. I hope you'll find what you're looking for....this post is kind of sad though...hopefully is just a good bye not farewell;) I'll be there in three weeks and I will also try to make the most of every day on the island.
    good luck in Australia!

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    1. Thank you! I'll be back in Tilos next year - this is only temporary, and don't worry, I'm in Oz for a very good, happy reason... Have a wonderful trip and maybe see you next year? x

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  4. This is so not me - sharing sentimental songs on the Internet. But I came to think of a beautiful song about moving on with Swedish singer Sarah Dawn Finer.

    If it says nothing for you - just appreciate it as a good song. Or don't even appreciate it. Whatever ;-)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LTOF5t2Tao

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    1. Ha ha, thank you! I hope I'm not 'moving on' from Tilos, but I see what you mean!

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  5. Hello
    I have just finished reading your book, and want to thank You for a perfect preparation for our holiday on tilos starting this weekend. Reading your book made me looking Even more forward (if possible) to our trip. We went There for the first time last year, and for us it is paradise. Such a relaxing place - where it is possible to Get away for a few days , lowering our shoulders completely.
    Best regards
    Traveller from norway.

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    1. Excellent! Hope you have a wonderful holiday. Thank you for reading the book - and for making contact. Jx

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  6. I wish you all the luck in the world in Oz, but reading your blog I could hardly bear for you to leave Tilos!! How weird is that! Do come back to Tilos, and help us feel we are living just a tiny bit of the dream vicariously.

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    1. Thank you, Gilly - I hope I'll be back before long!

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