The village is a walk through ferns, following a goat track. I heard the goat herder’s wild animal cries at sunrise and the passing sounds of bells, bleats and hoofs sure-footed on stone. But I have no desire to go to the village. Instead I go to the waterfall to wash the city from my body and remember the sweet caress of the sun.
I am watching the sea. The waves seem to know what to do. They make a journey then die on the shore. The energy is reborn and returns to the ocean. Cycle complete.
I have to blame the sun for my philosophy, or the mountain, and I suspect that the tree had a few things to share. My nest is beautiful. Crete shimmers on the horizon like an ethereal spirit. I am halfway to Lavrakas. Once again I chose solitude. Being with people is easy but alone time is so precious.
I met my neighbours in the only shade on the entire beach. I needed to find somewhere to set up camp so I shuffled through the burning sand and struck up a conversation. This move led to a prolonged discussion on conservation and a sheltered spot under the juniper tree that I would call home for the next ten days. This surely was heaven. My nest perched at the edge of a cliff and was complete with a mud buddah and a well-worn sarong left by the previous inhabitants.
I begin to avoid my campsite and therefore the goat-man. Leaving doesn’t seem an option. I am enamored by early morning swims beneath the waterfall and my evening campfire under the forest canopy. So I wander further, where I discover other magical places, and I stay away until the daylight slips behind the mountain.
After three consecutive days, where I breathe the air of silence and feel the heartbeat of the goddess in every ancient tree, I return to my hearth for the night. Alone, I instinctively pause on the threshold just as a blood-curling cry tears through the stillness. Fear clutches at my throat. I know this is the goat-man and I feel his suffering.
I am a stone, invisible to the naked eye. The goat-man rushes past me and disappears further into the forest. Only then do I remember to breathe. My pulse beats slow motion. My feet find ground. I am propelled in the opposite direction, away from the fingers that tighten around my freedom.
I meet the goat-man on the first night I arrive. Shadows are dancing on the sleeping plane trees. He sits on a log and hugs his legs close to his lean body. His face is in darkness. Mine is flushed from the heat of the fire and my enthusiasm for cracking sticks to fuel the flames. The goat-man is impressed by my bush skills.
The next morning, he is outside my tent. I know this wild goat-man speaks no English. He points to the goddess slopes rising into the clouds and smiles. This is paradise: of course I want to explore more. I remove my sandals, they are useless on this terrain. I leap barefoot over the shards of igneous rock with grace but not with the speed of the agile man ahead. The mountain is in his blood. There is no path, but I remember the scuffed rocks and the landmarks behind me.
We pass a gate, climb higher, and settle at the edge of a cliff. Beyond is the ultramarine sea. I am caught between this breath-taking view and the man behind me. He is close and I can tell that he has not been with a women for some time. I am ready for a love affair but this is not it. My Greek extends to good morning, yes and no, three more words than the goat-man’s vocabulary in my native tongue. I point to my sex, then his, and cross my arms. In Greek I declare O’hi! Even if I say no with a bad accent, I consider this to be a clear message. It is not.
Early the following morning, the goat-man returns to my solo camp in the forest. I am caught by surprise, once again, and quickly wrap a scarf around my nakedness. He grins and throws his torso onto my sleeping mat. This is not going to be simple. Miming produces smiles and my phrasebook is useless. I try No, thank you, I’d rather not, leave me alone. My uninvited visitor looks confused. I want to laugh. I laugh! I know that I shouldn’t but he is innocent, confused, hopeful, stubborn. I am out of my culture, out of my depth, out of words and completely uncertain how I can regain my solitude.
I fall instantly, deeply in love, with Samothraki. Her bones are covered in flesh and water runs like sweat from her fecund thighs. She seduces me with her plane tree eyes and wild goat underbelly. I am lost in her canyons where the sound of water falling drowns out all consciousness except for stillness in movement … movement in stillness. I am full to bursting with passion for this island.
Photo © Jeni McMillan
Gavdos Day 6
I sit beneath my tree and watch the ferry cross the calm blue between my present and future. Soon I will be pulled from Paradise and tossed into the unknown. I’m not sure if I am ready. This island has seduced me with her harsh beauty and eroded any sense of responsibility. The cliffs care only for the wind that shapes their grandeur. The trees will continue to face the sun and spread shade onto the ground. I am smaller than a grain of sand but I know that the Goddess has smiled on me.
Gavdos Island Day 5
At first glance there is nothing but burning sand. Then ants appear as if by magic. Small black ones cruise the spot where I’ve left a trace of oily sardine. Miniscule amber ones work feverishly on another remnant of lunch. It takes languid dedication to watch these tiny creatures. Meditation within nature. Om to the fish that brought us together.
Day 2 in Paradise
I am perfect here on this island
The colour of sand
The strength of the wind
Time has been stolen
And dropped into the restless sea
Photos © Jeni McMillan
My first day back in Australia … and I’m running low on zeds. I love jetlag… it really does makes sense out of madness. I’m back on the shift. Raring to go. I’m afraid there is going to be a little retrospective of the last few months. It was awesome. What more can I say? Bare with me, or is that bear? Ah ..semantics.
photo: Jeni McMillan