Bread Turned to Stone
Notes from a Greek Island
“Every corner, every house, every staircase becomes a subject.” —Vlassis
In the old days, the island was used by the sea-peoples for water and rest.
On my first afternoon there, I saw a woman spraying water at pigeons roosting under the umbrellas of her favorite café.
Bougainville petals line the floor beneath the bedroom windows of our apartment. The nearest vine is still four meters away.
What is it about these rooms and their tall windows, with their rod iron beds and cabinets of icons closed for who knows how many years?
Four days here, and I have already counted 9 one-eyed cats.
On the way to the port this morning, down steep stairs and before the others are awake, there is a smell of incense and coffee and sea rot and the sea, of villages I have not seen for twenty years.
The true locals, Charlie tells me, will not paint their shutters cobalt blue.
The sea holds enough blue for everyone, and most of us swim every day.
Then late last night, 11 cats waited outside a closed gate. A man, they say, comes to feed them there. Bits of old fish and scraps the tavernas have tossed away.
The curator said the big basil plant in the courtyard gets watered every day. The artist, she told me, had loved this one best.
The winged women at the museum are of questionable authenticity.
And in the chapel nearest our street, the priest arrives early to pray. One morning, a woman and her two young daughters went there singing.
It’s true that the old backroad eventually turns to dust and this not far beyond the ruins of Ghika’s beloved house.
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Damon Falke is the author of, among other works, The Scent of a Thousand Rains, Now at the Uncertain Hour, By Way of Passing, and Koppmoll (film). He lives in northern Norway.