This morning I’ve been thinking about Greece, a place I will probably never travel to again, and I am remembering how I took for granted the long warm days, swimming in a warm ocean, eating ripe tomatoes and cucumbers and salty cheese with glasses of golden retsina at lunch, and lying down in fragrant grass with Agamemnon. I’ve written about this in my book, Mnemonic: A Book of Trees, and mostly it’s very much in the past, but this morning, a very welcome sun and 3 new leaves on a small fig tree, a rosemary in a Krinos olive oil tin, have reminded me of that time.
As the weekend approaches, I am content, mostly, to be moving tomato plants up to their summer home on the second-storey deck. I say “mostly” because we were anticipating a flight to Ottawa to see our family there, to walk at Mere Bleu, maybe swim in the quarry pond near their home, and spend time with them on the deck we helped them to build 7 or 8 years ago. I had tiny tomatillo seedlings to wrap in damp paper to deliver to them and some beeswax for a project with older grandson. But a phone call reporting household-wide COVID had us cancel our flight.
Content, mostly, to wash the oldest quilts and hang them to dry, to plant out chard seedlings, to think about my morning swim and how the front crawl isn’t nearly as difficult as it was last week, and to keep an eye out for western tanagers which should be arriving soon. This was the week when my Blue Portugal and Other Essays was officially published (though I’ve had copies for about 10 days) and it was welcomed in the most generous way, here, and here, and here. (And an earlier book, The Weight of the Heart, was reviewed here by a dream reviewer, someone who knows the writers it pays homage to and the landscapes it celebrates.) Friends write to tell me they’re reading it and I realize how that was always my hope. To know that the essays have found readers and what I’ve recorded over the years it took to write Blue Portugal hasn’t been lost.
Instead of Ottawa, instead of Greece, I am here, right here, in a red chair with a cup of strong coffee, a greenhouse full of seedlings that need to be potted into big tubs or else given away (and if you need tomatoes, let me know), an olive tree about to bloom, actual warmth in the sun after weeks of chilly rain, and a book about decoding the Rosetta stone that reads like a mystery novel. And after that, I’m going to re-read Lawrence Durrell who will take me to Greece, or at least the Greece I am longing for: before computers, before the 21st century, when I was still young, and the anemones were blooming, and everything seemed possible.
“Other countries may offer you discoveries in manners or lore or landscape; Greece offers you something harder—the discovery of yourself.”
In the meantime, if you’re looking, here’s where you’ll find me.