“You’re the one with the red coat!” the woman proudly said to Janice, as she got down from her bicycle. The woven, straw basket strapped to the rear fender of her bike was filled with groceries because she was returning from the only grocery store in the tiny village of Limni, on the Greek island of Evia. She boldly curbed her vintage bike to interrupt the otherwise peaceful breakfast-by-the-sea of these strangers because, well, that’s what they do in Limni. Since early May is still a bit early for tourists and since the village is small, she and her neighbors had definitely noticed us when, the twilight before, we drove into the village, in search of lodging for the night.
We had driven three hours from Athens to Larissa, Greece, the day before, to pick-up some Albanian language books in preparation for upcoming marriage enrichment and singles conferences at PORTA –the Albania House in Athens. On the way home, on the spur of the moment, with no extra clothes, we decided to take the ferry boat across from the mainland to the large island that hugs the Greek coastline. As the fading sun set on the waters, we drove into the seaside town and were fortunate to locate lodging in a German-run inn facing the bay.
Perhaps, the lady stopped to make conversation because there is precious little else to do in Limni. It is distinguished, not only by its simple and pristine beauty, but by its miniature size. Everyone in town knows everyone else in town; and, I suspect that new arrivals are welcomed both because they bring the potential for trade and also because they are people. And people seem to be valued in this tiny town.
As we sat at a dinner table the night before, enjoying a classic Greek meal in a building that was proud of its 150 years, my weary, wound-up-tight, western-over-scheduled brain began to sense a change of velocity. Almost unconsciously, my internal gyroscope recalibrated itself, to calculate more correctly the ambiance and milieu of this restful place. Since all that we did in that precious get-away was done near the sea, the casual, predictable and repetitive come and go, give and take of the waves, washing on the shore and retreating seemed to set the stride for us. The water spoke softly to us, telling us to slow down. And we did, if only for the better part of one night and half of the next day.
Driving home through the mountains on the island, passing idyllic mountain streams, I asked myself: How can I learn to slow the tempo in the hurly burly of my “normal life” on the streets of Athens? Lacking the island inducements to reflection and the “natural” village life incentives that entice one toward the larger perspective and the slower pace, what prompters can I locate in my urban existence that will put my worries on “pause” and help me to step back from the angst of anxiety?
While I have few easy answers to those questions, I am convinced that seeking both answers and places of emotional refuge are vital for me. And I have returned to this old city with a fresh desire to savor the little moments that this good life gives me, even those that may be filled with diesel fumes, motorcycle noise and Greeks shouting at everyone, anyone and no one. Look for the wistful, glassy-eyed guy in the Athens traffic!