Back up to July 24. I left the island that day. It was a rash decision to satisfy my curiosity to see more of the world and other seas besides the beautiful Aegean.
The night before I left was a long one as I said goodbye to my friends. Some did not say goodbye, since they knew I would be back. I smiled and said “Of course, I will see you later in August.”
Deep down, I was not sure I would ever come back. Lately when I go places and the experience is beyond wonderful then I prefer to keep it that way. Coming back to the same place, one expects the same, and often the second time around, one is disappointed. This time I came back.
No expectations, just an open mind and an open heart. Everything changes. Nothing is the same as it was one second ago. We logically know that, but often we have expectations based on past experiences. When we expect someone to do something, since he or she did it in the past, then we are often angry and upset when the person does not follow through.
When we attach to a person or an outcome we often set ourselves up for disappointment and we blame something or someone else for ‘making us feel bad’. In the end it is up to us to change our perspective. So, as I made my decision to return to Folegandros, I consciously told myself to not expect anything, there will be something else to see and learn, and it will be equally as fabulous as the first time; just in a different way.
I board the ferry from Santorini and the girl next to me has on a t-shirt that says – follow your heart. Another one said – just live for everything you love. Good thing for t-shirt wisdom. These are the reasons I am on this ferry again and returning to the island that has left a mark on my heart.
The ferry is different. There are fewer people. We are not being pushed on and off like cattle. I leave my suitcase outside, since I know it is easier to grab it when the boat arrives in the port. I step off. I breathe in the sea-air, the wind is gently blowing a warm breeze, and the energy feels good. This stirs up inside of me a feeling of bliss. I am happy. There is magic in the air. Ask the locals or those that return year over year, they will tell you the same. I immediately feel comfortable.
I meet my friends that night. They changed and are tired from a long season of working everyday. It is also the end of August and there is a feeling in the air that vacations are over. Summer is slipping away. I can feel it. Here on the island people are starting to leave, going back to a life they don’t like in Athens. Then there are people like me who don’t have a date to go back. We want to live the endless summer, but every so often, that ‘thing’ creeps into the mind. Reality. It is waiting for me, but let it wait. I am still in Greece and the days and water are still warm.
My first day back, I walk up to the church as I did in July to do yoga. The donkey is gone. Then men working on the path are gone. Hobo Jack, the pointer that reminds me of Ingrid, is gone. The sunsets are different. It sets in a different place and now I do not sit at the bar where I used to sit. The water is warmer. The wind is gentler.
Nature and locals have changed to prepare for fall. Being in this beauty each day, I also am more connected to nature. It is very clear that everything must change, there are no options. I am OK with this. One thing that is still the same, thank God, is that the Greek men are still gorgeous and still ‘real men’. You know, men who can build things with their hands, who can catch a fish, gut it, cook it for dinner and clean up the dishes. These are my friends.
My new favorite hobby is spear fishing. I don’t actually deep dive and catch the fish, but I snorkel on top and carry the extra spears and the fish the guys catch. This position on the team offers the best view of the action. Spiros asked, “We are going spear fishing do you want to come?” As I say yes to everything these days, I answer, “Of course, sounds fun, what do I need to do?” He told me, “Just watch.” “And we need to pick up my friend.”
Easy enough. We jump in his boat, pass a dolphin, and arrive at a Greek navy ship anchored in the middle of the Aegean. Stratos is waiting. The adventures continue. Spiros maneuvers his boat beside a huge navy ship, Stratos hands me his gear, jumps in, and we leave. The guys put on their suits. Not boring Armani suits, but tight, camouflage wet suits. James Bond style they attach a knife to the waste and carry the spear.
We know the concept of man’s need to hunt and chase. Well, this is hunting in its purest form. I am thoroughly entertained. The guys swim and keep their eyes open for fish. When they locate a cave or a rock that looks promising, the breathing begins. Deep inhales and exhales to prepare for the free dive. Since the suits are so tight, you can see their lungs filling with air.
They take turns. It is time and one man gives a push to the other’s fins. Ever so gracefully, holding their breath, they dive to depths of 25 to 30 meters (90 feet), and slowly let out air. Searching for a fish, they select the one they want, and the spear is released. I close my eyes. This continues for three hours. Every so often someone will ask, “Pamelaki, are you OK, are you bored?” Bored? They have no idea how much I enjoy this front row seat. I tell them, “Well, I am a little cold, but I will be just fine. Continue on.” I smile. Here I am in the most beautiful blue, clear waters of the Aegean watching men be men. Kefi once again.
As September winds down, I get the dreaded question from family and friends. “When are you coming home?” Now I simply respond, “When the water gets cold.” Time does not really exist here. We don’t know what day of the week it is or the date. This phenomena can only happen once you do the same things each day or don’t have meetings to attend, or are not counting down days for the weekend.
When making appointments, my friend will just say to meet him tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or two days from tomorrow. I don’t even wear a watch anymore. I’ve changed since I left NYC in May. A dear friend emailed last week and told me, “Your life has changed forever.” I don’t know how I will feel when I return and will not think about it while I am still in Greece. I need the sea. I need nature. I need simplicity. My days here are the same, but I am never bored. Thanks to Pavlos, I zip around on my donkey scooter as if I live here.
There is a rhythm here. The beauty of the sea and conversations with my friends fills my soul. It is enough. I swim everyday. As I breathe, my head turns to see the blue sky and white cliffs. My head is then in the water and I see the turquoise sea and colorful fish. Inhale and exhale. Salt water is my friend. I swim to rocks, climb them, and perch myself as if a mermaid.
I went to my favorite rock today. I lie down and stare at the clear, blue water, green layers of rocks. The rock has a small puddle and when the sun dries it, there is sea salt. My cheek rests in it. I wake up and lick the sea salt from my lips. I am tired, but don’t want to close my eyes as I will miss the beauty that is in front of them.
My days are also filled with friends. We swim, dive, cook together, sing songs under the tree, watch movies, have dinner in the village, and then we spend hours talking. I read to them sections from my book that arrived from Athens last week – Zorba the Greek. We laugh. We are all a little bit like Zorba.
It will be hard to leave, but I know that I will be ready. I am already feeling that it is time to head back to the States. While on the island, I feel like I plugged myself in to some battery re-charge machine. The people, the sun, the sea, the moon, and the shooting stars- these all fill me with joy. I will continue to ‘fill me up’ with whatever is floating around in the air until the boat leaves the port. Then I will be sailing towards another adventure.
It will be like my night dive. In the dark waters, there is an unknown that I had to jump into. For a second, I was afraid of the ‘sharks’ below. Once we went down, the light of the full moon guided us. We had flashlights. Below the surface of the scary, dark waters, there was actually light from shimmering plankton, and believe it or not, not one shark.
Once I leave Greece, I do not know what will happen. Sometimes we have to jump into those dark waters and know that below the surface it will be clear. During the night dive, I was not afraid. Given some time, the unknown of the dark waters became known.
Christos told me a few weeks ago – “fear is the last door before you feel free” There is nothing to be afraid of. Dark waters become light. Everything I need to know is below the surface – the answers are within.