He is the cat of this port: still in grooming training for that macaroon coat, growing into those big-boy marmalade ears. One of the fishermen he’s befriended tossed him a handful of gavros—shiny silvery-skinned fish the size of sardines—but the seagulls swooped in and bullied him away from them. He’s hesitant now—that dazed expression is less an indication of sleepiness, I think, than of still figuring out the world—but he will soon learn, like the gypsy boy who appeared at my shoulder at dinner in Thessaloniki, hand out for money as he’d been instructed, but his face, not yet skilled in masking desires, clearly more interested in the three meatballs that remained on the platter in front of us. “Would you like the keftedes?” we asked. Deftly curling all three with one swoop, he popped a meatball into his mouth and disappeared around the corner to face his own seagulls.
When I tell you I’m spending a month on a Greek island, stop picturing those little whitewashed houses, a stark volcanic landscape, a cobalt sea. You’re imagining the Cycladic islands—Santorini, Mykonos, and their kind. Run your finger way up the map of the Aegean. I’m at the top, on Thasos: across the water from Kavala, closer to Istanbul than to Athens. On the clearest days, they tell me, you can see neighboring Mt. Athos, the Holy Mountain, though so far it has remained, appropriately enough, shrouded in a mystical (mist-ical, for the punsters among you: Dad) veil.
You need an artist’s palette to capture precisely all the colors the sea expresses from moment to moment: bottle green to Mexican glass blue to midnight blue. Densely clustered pine forests scent the island. Olive groves give it sustenance and livelihood, while individual trees generously shade each patio, which tend to be built, in the style of Odysseus & Penelope’s house, around the olive trees.
At Kyria Vaso’s Rooms to Let my front porch overlooks bushes bursting with lilac-colored hydrangeas, roses in profusion, and everywhere, in every pot (not just here but around the village), the exact same color of magenta geraniums, as if they all descended from the same mother.
I’m here for the Writing Workshops in Greece, which has as its logo the octopus, whose gardens flourish in these cove-abundant waters.
Here’s to becoming like the octopus, which has a naked mind: every ripple of feeling that passes through it is expressed upon its skin. The skin will change colors, like a mood ring was supposed to do, to communciate the octopus’s state of being, flushing this way with rage and that way with love. No layers of reserve to protect them from predators, or from life.