Lefkada, the island of many colors

Lefkada Island Greece Colorful Street Town

Color me neglectful, and call the island of Lefkada beautiful. You would forgive me if you were here. Perhaps you too would be distracted by all the beautiful colors and the endless blue sea. You would forgive me, I think.

Lefkada Island Greece Truck Village Sea Maybe you would even understand why I spent half an hour looking at a red truck, by a green palm, next to a blue sea. Maybe.

Lefkada Island bikes yellow blue

Blue against yellow, could it be any more perfect? Doesn’t it seem as if you dreamed it it into being?

And of course, the endless Greek sea…

Lefkada Island Greece Sea Cliffs Perfection.

My fascination with Lefkada goes beyond the color wheel. I’ve been re-reading and studying The Odyssey, over and over again. Classes even — I took classes to make sure I didn’t miss anything, because I  always miss something. So what does Lefkada have to do with The Odyssey? Everything, it seems. There’s a whole group of scholars and archaeologists who believe the island of Lefkada is actually ancient Ithaka. But I think that Ithaka is Ithaka, and I’m on a mission to prove it.

From Schliemann, I learned that Homer was a straightforward historian. Schliemann found Troy by following Homer’s clues in The Iliad. Most historians, scholars and archaeologists in Schliemann’s time (even Greeks) didn’t believe Troy existed. They mistook The Iliad for another edition of Greek mythology. Schliemann proved them wrong and used Homer as his guide, with great success.

So I believe that Ithaka is Ithaka, and I’d like to find a way to prove it. On my last trip to Greece, I wandered way off the beaten path and almost passed out from sun stroke. While stumbling along a crumbling mountainside — clutching at prickly weeds for dear life and cursing myself for always taking the hard way — I discovered a buried ruin.  I’ll write more on this when I’m able to, but it showed me that anything is possible. My entire life I’ve dreamed of discovering something that was lost to mankind, and without even trying, it happened.

So anything is possible. Ithaka is Ithaka.

© 2013 – 2014, Ithaka Bound. All rights reserved. Text and images copyright protected.

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I have many things in mind

Woman on beach in Greece

During the peace that followed the clash of the gods and the Titans, the sea nymph Metis became pregnant by Zeus. The Oracle of Gaea, Mother Earth, warned Zeus that if Metis had a son, he would be greater than Zeus himself. Zeus, remembering the defeat of his own father, Kronos, borrowed a move from his father’s playbook and swallowed Metis whole.

Many months later, Zeus began to suffer from terrible headaches. He went among his friends and begged them to split his head open to allow the pain out. Neither the gods nor the Titans dared do such a thing, except for Prometheus. Prometheus was so progressive and forward-thinking, he had sided with Zeus in the recent war against the Titans and was rewarded with a place among the Olympian gods.

“The pain will be sharp,” said Prometheus, “but then you’ll feel better. Now put your hands over your eyes.”

Zeus did as he was told. Prometheus brought his ax down and crack went Zeus’s skull.

As soon as his skull opened, Athena — Zeus’s brilliant new daughter — lept from his forehead, dressed in a glimmering warrior’s armor and sounding a warrior’s cry.

Prometheus patched up Zeus’s skull with clay, while Zeus roared with laughter.

“What an entrance for a child! Full grown and only seconds old.”

“Father, dear,” said Athena “I have many things in mind.”

“Indeed you have. I shared all my thoughts with you before you were born,” said Zeus.

–Recently, I tried to cure my incessant migraines by pouring holy water from the island of Tinos over my head — last in a long line of potential magical cures.

Hair, holy water and trees

Rorschach test with hair, trees and holy water

I don’t know if it worked quite yet, but if it didn’t, it can mean only one thing: an Olympian god is gestating in my forehead.

Now all I need is a Prometheus.

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If it’s Tuesday, this must be Patmos

Athens, Temple of the Olympian Zeus

An essay on choosing the right travel companion.

Athens

“Half a day is more than enough time to see Athens,” she says. “I’m glad I took the advice of friends who told me not to stay longer.”

“Did you at least go up to the Acropolis and see the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion, the Porch of the Caryatids, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and the Theater of Dionysos?” I ask.

“No,” she says.

“Did you go to the Agora — the ancient marketplace of Athens — and see the Temple of Hephaestus and the Church of the Holy Apostles?”

“No,” she says.

“Did you go one block south of the hotel and see the Temple of the Olympian Zeus or Hadrian’s Arch?”

“No.”

“Did you see the Tower of the Winds, the Library of Hadrian, the Roman Agora, the Pnyx Hill, the Hill of the Muses, the Street of Tombs, or the Prison of Socrates?”

“No,” she says, “I love history, but I can only see so many ruins.”

She’s right; half a day is plenty of time for a quick tour of the Acropolis Museum.

Greek Ferry

The Ferry

I look over the ship’s railing and suddenly understand what Homer meant when he described the sea as wine-dark. The Aegean is a dark, rich, rolling blue. If wine were a blue color, it would be the Greek Sea. There’s a density to it, a sense of weight; I have to restrain myself from jumping  overboard.

“Look at the sea,” I say. “Don’t you just want to jump in?”

“I have absolutely no desire to jump in,” she says.

I try to reassure myself –  just because she doesn’t like ruins or the sea doesn’t mean she won’t love the beach. Everyone loves the beach.

Greek Island Beach

The Beach

“I love the beach,” she says as she sits uncomfortably on a rock along the shore.

I walk slowly into the water, hoping she’ll follow me. We could both use some cool water on our faces.

According to an expert she consulted, there is a prescribed amount of time she must spend in the sun in order to get her required daily dose of Vitamin D.

I swim for an hour or more as she sits on the rock, obviously ill at ease, watching people enjoying themselves in the water. She has wandered so far from herself, she now needs degrees and coordinates to find her way to joy, or at the very least, a guidebook written by an expert.

Greece is merciless on the tightly wound, it can destroy entire world views in mere moments. I want to reassure her that everything’s going to be alright, but I have no idea where to start. My  misguided attempts are a resounding failure.

After the regulated amount of time in the sun, she allows herself a short swim. I offer her my swim shoes because she’s worried about sea urchins, though they never rest on sandy bottoms. Since I cannot convince her of this, I hope the shoes will at least assuage her fear.

After the swim, I can feel the tension building up in her until it finally boils over. “We’ve been here for four hours. I can’t sit on a beach for four hours!”

“But we’ve only been here for two hours,” I say.

“Maybe you’re the type of person who can sit on a beach for hours, but I like to be active.”

My lame reply: “But it’s the middle of the day, and really hot.”

This has nothing to do with the noonday sun and everything to do with control.

She gets in the car and spends the rest of the day driving around the island.

I spend hours swimming, snorkeling, searching for octopuses.

She’s right though, I’m the type of person who could spend hours sorting pebbles on a beach.

Greek Sailor

The Greeks

“You know,” she says, in that haughty tone people always use when they’re about to say something condescending, “these modern Greeks have nothing in common with the old Greeks.”

“You mean besides a shared history, race, culture, and bloodline? I suppose that’s true, but that doesn’t detract from the glory that was, and Greeks have every right to be proud of their lineage and the greatness that came before them.”

Advice for the world: If you’re going to disparage an ancient race and culture, please don’t do it in front of a Serb with a thousand years of rebel blood running through her veins.

She uses the same tired old line people always use when trying to bring the Greeks down a few pegs. But I feel as though it’s me she’s trying to bring down a few pegs.

Later that night, at dinner, she leaves a few pennies as a tip for the waiter. I hand the pennies back to her. “That’s insulting,” I say, though she already knows this.

I sit there, wondering how I ended up in Greece  with a lousy tipper who doesn’t like ruins, the sea, or the beach. Athena hears my silent plea and intercedes.

The Nine-Headed Hydra

She decides to leave the island. She books one of those tours that visit seven islands in four days — a consumption tour. She’ll file through the cave of John of the Apocalypse on the island of Patmos with 100 other tourists.

“You have so many stories about Greece,” she says to me, her voice dripping with… what?.. cynicism? I don’t know, but I feel so sorry for her. We’re mis-matched travel companions, it’s as simple as that.

She’s good at following rules. She carries around a plastic vitamin container, divided by days of the week. Each days portion snaps shut with a satisfying click.

She leaves nothing to chance. She has a back-up toothbrush just in case her electric toothbrush fails. I’ll write that again: she has a back-up toothbrush just in case her electric toothbrush fails.

Fear is the nine-headed Hydra in her life.

I see her off at the ferry, and like Agamemnon before me, I beg Artemis for a strong wind to carry her swiftly away. My reaction is visceral; I just want to take an easy, defenseless breath. I want to go back to sorting pebbles on the beach.

As the boat pulls away, I have so many hopes and wishes for her: I wish she would throw the vitamins overboard and gorge on cheese pies and souvlaki until the grease drips down her chin. I wish she would get sloppy drunk on ouzo and dance on a taverna table. I wish she would laugh as loud as humanly possible — a wild cackle of an uncontrollable laugh that will shock onlookers. I wish she’d sleep with a different hairy-back Greek every night — men who’ll whisper sweet lies in her ear.

Maybe then she’ll be free of the Hydra.

© 2013 – 2014, Ithaka Bound. All rights reserved. Text and images copyright protected.

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