#13 ~ howling at the moon
Not long before the glorious January full ‘Wolf’ moon, the hungry moon, we were blessed with a bit of rain. It came in the night, easing away the crackle of static and brittle leaves, rinsing off the dust, plumping skin left dry and haggard with the stripping of the cold winds from the north, leaving everything feeling alive and smelling fresh and clean. Mind you, this is winter. And that was the only rain we’ve had in a month’s time. I’ve been chipping ice, every frozen morning, from the horses’ water troughs. But the days turn to spring, even the birds sound fooled – and there has been no more rain.
I’ve taken to walking the sunset with Djuna each evening. (We’re often joined by Posy the Goat)
He sniffs about, scenting the messages left behind in the dark by passing bobcat, coyote and raccoon while I visit with neighboring horses and scan the skies for astounding clouds and colors, and the gaggles of geese that course overhead from pond to pond. (Oh, I would give anything for a new camera!!!)
But on the walk we took just after that one rain – with a sunset still roiling with clouds, golden hued and illuminating the darkening sky from below– a sound, perhaps the cooing of a dove? Or a smell, the scent of damp earth and distant sea on the breeze … something took me immediately to Skiathos.
When we can, Paul and I go to to the island for a few weeks in winter as well as in the springtime. We were there just over a year ago, bundled in berets and warm scarves and jackets, bathed by a weak winter sun as we sat outdoors in a taverna by the water … soothed by the music of foreign language, only a few other non-residents spotted here and there wearing the same faraway look in their eyes that we possessed, and likely were there for the same reason. It is our hearts’ home. It’s where our Muse is all around us, in us, with us always. She carries us through our time there charged with juicy inspiration. We spend days walking empty driftwood scattered beaches, hiking though sand floored cypress forests, feeding street cats, reading, reading, laughing … writing … visiting with friends who are always far too busy ‘in the season’ to sit and linger over a meal, a coffee or a Tsipouro. Walking ‘home’ along the waterfront in the dark of a winter’s night we can see our breath in reflected light … the weather Gods usually treat us well, giving us only a taste of Zeus’ furies in occasional torrential rains and skies full of lightening bolts, even a hint of snow here and there in between long stretches of glorious 65 degree sunshine.
Two years ago on Christmas Day I went to Skiathos alone. It was an epic journey … not only was there the long flight to Athens (via many points in between) but also the sometimes adventurous winter journey from Athens to the island, always with the threat of a National Strike lurking about. In winter, ferry passage is dependant upon organized protests or the weather and flights go only 2x a week from Athens and then only if the pilot feels he has gotten enough sleep, isn’t fighting with his girlfriend or wants cheap shrimp from the island fish market … and again, only as long as the weather is cooperating. But I made it, settled into the lovely, cozy little stone den that our good friend so generously offers as winter lodging –– and then it started to rain.
And rain. And rain. This winter ‘home’ is a good quarter mile from the village, which I depend upon for signs of life and sustenance so I slogged it every day through ankle deep rivers-that-once-were-roads and sheets of rain to visit the market and sit in a warm cafe.
The rain didn’t matter. I was there to write. My story originated on the island long ago, it’s where much of its writing had developed and I was not there now to leisure away my days on golden winter beaches or walking goat paths winding through verdant fields. My adventure was simply to go to Skiathos and finish my story.
I arose early every day … to the sound of the torrents outside … and swaddled in my long down coat, set to work on the computer. By mid day I would be ready to uncurl, stretch, unfurl and emerge from my cozy little word-cave so, bundled up like a pack mule, I’d make the wet expedition to the town where I then would sit again for hours … first over a silken, delicious hot chocolate, then Greek coffee, and eventually tsipouro with meze’des, the wonderful side dishes that accompany each small bottle of tsipouro, a salad of some sort or a plate of small fishes, or big beans drenched in a tomato/garlic/oregano sauce … and work on new ideas and the edit of my paper manuscript.
The rains stopped on New Years Eve. I put down pen and computer for the day and took advantage of late afternoon sun, walking the village, up and down the hilly cobbled lanes and whitewashed alleys past doorways of red and green and blue that still were blessed with flowering bougainvillea …
I fed hungry cats everywhere, and walked to the shipyard to visit beloved caiques that were ‘resting’ there for the winter, and with the coming of the dark, found myself quite hungry – but heading back through the village I couldn’t even find one open market or taverna. The only place open for business in the entire town was a small cafe in the harbor where the closest thing to dinner were the wee handfuls of nuts that came as meze’ with the 2 shots of ouzo I drank!
The coming of the New Year is a big deal in Greece – bigger than Christmas Day, which is second to Easter in regards to a religious celebration though also significant in that it is Agios Nikolaos’ day. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, and therefore also very important to these people of the sea – and is the namesake of all named Niki or Nikos, etc. It a solemn day next to the celebration of the new year, Agios Vasilis’, or Saint Basil’s day (for anyone named Vasilis, Vasilikoula, etc.) This is the day of the ritual “renewal of waters”, in which all water containers in the house are emptied and refilled with fresh water, and (I love this quite pagan piece), offerings are made by some to the naiads, the spirits of springs and fountains in thanks for the plentiful waters of the year before and to ensure the flow of good water in the year ahead! It is a lucky day, as Saint Basil is not only the patron of healing and protection but also of good fortune and the ‘vasilopita’ is shared, a cake with one coin baked into it; whoever finds the coin is considered to have good luck coming. But of course, being the first day of the new year, it is marked by much festivity …
There would be parties all over the village … I’d been invited to a few, but as they wouldn’t even start until after 10 PM there was a lot of ‘lost time’ to handle. I wandered (well, after 2 ouzo, I wandered a bit tipsily!) off to the end of a small, wooded peninsula known as ‘Bourtzi”, where I could watch the moon showing off over the sea through the few scattered clouds.
I was beset by a bit of melancholy there, looking over the water, sitting alone in the dark freezing chill in this place that always has been metaphor, to me, for my more authentic self. The place where, while being fed by the warmth of color and the sun, calmed by the healing water and the island’s richness of spirit, I’ve always been able to retreat to – within – to where the magic of a potent silence can so easily be found despite being surrounded, at times, by a multitude of tourists!
But on that cold night, in a different kind of silence I could have been the only person left on the planet. I wept a bit, missing Paul and the Reverend Cupcake and the other furries on the farm, said my blessings for the New Year ahead and then stood, and sang – rather drunkenly – a melancholic version, in the Gaelic, of ‘Auld Lang Syne’. Walking back along the Bourtzi’s stone path to the old village harbor, dolled up in it’s holiday lights and blue Christmas trees, I felt like I was moving down a birth canal. Leaving the old behind. Rebirth.
The wonderful parties with their great food and dancing came and went, with the new year greeted by a hail of shotgun blasts and fireworks, and good wishes of ‘Xronia Polla! Kali Xronia!’, many years, good years! The sun shone throughout the whole of the next day and I walked clean, dry alleys and along a golden beach to our springtime landlady’s house for a lovely feast with her family. With the year completed and a new one welcomed in with such love, I felt truly blessed. I wandered home beside a calm sea, through a sunset, a brilliant wash of many colors … returned to my hobbit house … and finished the story.
Another few years followed – polishing, sculpting, rearranging, rewrites, a lot of edits (a few of them done over coffee as a springtime sun rose over the Aegean) and many readings by my ‘readers’ … and then even more edits, spit polishing and reading but suddenly – I was done! Surely ‘All The Little Graces’ is an imperfect specimen, the flawed but much beloved first child, not literary genius, but it is whole and it is done.
And with the coming of the full ‘Wolf’ moon, it was sent off into the world to become an ‘eBook’.
While I continue my quest for traditional publishing, ‘All The Little Graces’ will be available as an eBook via Amazon (Kindle, Kindle app for Mac, Kindle app for PC), Apple iBook/iTunes (iPad, iPhone and iTouch) and Sony. I am bypassing Barnes and Noble (Nook) because B & N has even less integrity regarding author’s sales than Amazon has. It should be available soon.
Follow your passions and never let go of your dreams. Please. We must have dreams to light our way in these interesting times.
Howling at the moon, in love