TWO WEEKS YOUNGER (By way of Naxos Island)
by Karen Guthrie
We are the children of our landscape; it dictates behavior and even thought in the measure to which we are responsive to it. Lawrence Durrell
Belly to back we scoot. Hot wind, as if someone opened the oven door, sparks my thoughts. Words begin to simmer on the stove of my mind. Naxos in July, as seen from the vantage point of a passenger, is a feast for the senses. Abandoning the hot soup bowl called Athens, I have a fortnight on this Greek Island to gather my ingredients and create a tantalizing dish with a dash of adventure.
I love the gait of a scooter. Scenes trickle by at such a leisurely, azurely pace. Mountains ascended in slow motion give me adequate time to gaze into the sweet, gentle eyes of Naxian cows. A front and a back leg tied together confined to the circle of grazing their ropes will permit. Next year’s steaks stand sadly staked.
Naxian goats, cheese on the hoof, know no such constraint. They camouflage themselves amidst the white and brown craggy slopes. Herded and guarded by tired old dogs and sleeping old men, they play hopscotch on the rocks.
My partner Robin, the scooter, and I spiral up the side of a mountain. Sprinkled like sacred sugar cubes, tiny chapels dot the viewscape. The prayers of shepherds and fishermen are sweetening and softening this rough-hewn terrain. Tiny villages float past, kneaded into the valleys. Ancient Greek women, black clad and bent, pepper the porches as they peg their laundry on the crisp, clean air.
Puttering up out of the valley, oceans of olive trees sail by and, in their wake, the liquid jewel that is the Aegean Sea appears: Molten sapphire, amethyst, aquamarine and peridot stirred together and heaped into the perfect setting of sculptured rock.
Blue is this recipe’s main ingredient. Blue skies, blue sea, and Robin’s blue eyes. I dream blue dreams. I awaken to blue joy. I plan blue schemes. “Are my brown eyes blue, yet?” I ask. The blue-wine sea intoxicates me and the air smells like blue hyacinths.
As Robin navigates the winding roads, my arms lightly encircle his waist and I melt into the moment. I know I will depart this island so well nourished that I shall be two weeks younger.
The scooter canters along the coast road and I thank the hand of nature for taking an iridescent, turquoise highlighter and marking the best swimming spots. Accessing our favorite one is no easy feat and I cling to Robin’s hand while descending a golden cliff. Sun-crisped oregano, sage, and thyme crumble and crunch under our slipping feet and fragrance the air with a scent reminiscent of herbed bread baking.
On the beach, on our backs, we bake like buttered biscuits in the sun. Eyes closed, we still see blue. Crayola memories prompt a game – how many shades of blue can you name? Seventeen. Cerulean, navy, indigo, powder, periwinkle, robin’s egg…we feel as free as the children we once were, coloring outside of the lines.
Time to shop for images, to collect them like spices in the cupboard of my mind. I look at the velvet slipper of sand on my foot and I see a cinnamon-sugar coated, foot-shaped donut. I glance down the beach at lemon yellow slices of towels wrapped around honey-tanned skin. Bodies that are sun-infused and sea-salted into shades of chocolate, toffee, caramel, tea, amber, and rose, amble past me. Sunburned faces resemble out of season pomegranates.
The sun is low, bouncing off the cliffs, and the royal blue water is drizzled with reflecting gold. I feel as though I am swimming through puddles of elegant, liquefied china. My eyes fill; spilling over, and I wonder if ink-blue tears are running down my cheeks in lapis lazuli lines.
Satiated, we mount the scooter and ride on the breeze back toward town. Belly to back we scoot. Cradled and carried, two words flavor my thoughts – thank you.
This is Karen Guthrie’s second contribution to WRR@Large. She and her partner, Robin, have recently settled in England where she will report on her life there in a cottage called Rose.