Take a Ferry – The Poor Man’s Cruise! I’m not sure it’ll catch on, but I certainly find it an appealing description. In fact I’m writing this from the deck of a glamorous Blue Star Ferry. As promised I recently escaped from my mountain habitat and began to cruise around the Greek Islands. It’s a bit of a whirlwind tour, at least in comparison with my normal pace and I’m hitting up at least five distinct destinations in only two weeks (ok maybe gentle breeze is more accurate than whirlwind).
The destinations include: Crete – onetime home ok King Minos and the Minotaur, Rhodes – onetime home of the Colossus, Santorini – onetime location of Atlantis, Athens – onetime home of almost every other famous Greek in history and Some Other Small Island – I forget the name of because it’s not famous for anything in particular. Not a bad list and one that makes up for my years of neglect of Greece, a particularly grievous sin considering I majored in Ancient Greek language and civilization in college.
So as I write this I’m about a week into my own personal Odyssey and between the midnight arrivals, varied landscapes and misty hours at sea, I feel a little bit closer to Odysseus knowing that many of the sights I have seen must have passed before his eyes as he wandered the Mediterranean for 10 long years. Actually not only the sea, but the ruins I’ve walked through may have the very same stones that once shined new under his feet so many thousands of years ago.
Speaking of Odysseus, I’ve recently been reading some of the ancient authors – Homer, Ovid and Plato – and what strikes me more now than ever is how closely their thoughts and concerns mirror own. Across the centuries and despite the many changes in technology and culture, the broad strokes of the lives they paint look so very like our own lives. They worry about love and loss, the passage of time, what in life has true meaning and what legacy will they leave the future. The details may have changed, but we as humans remain the same.
Another thought that has run through my mind is a common question: what
caused a civilization to bloom and probe so many of the world’s most puzzling questions so deeply? Perhaps the reason I’m thinking about this as well has something to do with the essence of Greece. The constant warming rays of the sun, the abundance of food harvest from trees or the sea, the sweeping panoramas of water stretching to the horizon: these all seem to help free the mind from the concerns of daily life and push one toward greater introspection.
For whatever reason, Greece has always been, past and present, a special place. So special in fact that I once again hear the sirens’ call tempting me to stop, put down anchor and stay in one place for a while. No, not yet, for like Odysseus himself said “I cannot rest from travel: I will drink life to the lees… How dull it is to pause, to make an end, to rust unburnished, not to shine in use!”