On the heels of spring time with summer right around the corner I had one singular beach day which made me I think of summer with incredible anticipation. Summer brings all those gorgeous memories from past adventures and experiences. I recalled a summertime moment when gratitude became a thing I could touch.
The kindness of strangers
The day was spent at Thea Beach Bar, in Halkidiki, near Potidea. The air was hot and the sea was calm and crystal clear. Maria chose Thea because it is owned by her friends, Nikki and Kostas. They are that attractive middle aged couple that the general population envies—aging so damn slowly that picturing them as enthusiastic twenty somethings was too easy—Nikki with her long wavy hair, and bikini flat stomach chasing her grand child and Kostas, also in good form pouring drinks and moving from here to there taking care of his establishment. The couple was incredibly inviting—so inviting that they invited us, literally, to their home for supper that evening.
Upon leaving Nikki told us to stay and relax until we’d had enough of the beach. I will never really have enough of the beach but eventually I always need to eat. When the sun began leaving long shadows on the sand from the cliffs and trees behind us we picked up our things and headed to Nikki’s.
The Greek country home
We drove down a dirt road away from Thea. Each side had rows of seasonal vegetables. The rows eventually turned into trees. Finally we arrived at a simple but beautiful Mediterranean farm house nestled in some rolling hills. The house was a bungalow. The property was lined with bushes of lavender, jasmine and roses. A big old black mutt greeted us. The yard was full of tomato, pepper and cucumber plants. Nikki’s mom sat shucking peas and gave a friendly hello pausing to yell for Nikki. She was an elderly lady and despite her stroke was independent. Nikki’s grand daughter played nearby. It was a pretty perfect scene.
Grape vines covered a pergola casting dancing shadows. A large table in the middle of the space was set with mismatched chairs, plates, glasses, and a table cloth. We’d brought dessert and popped our head in to let Nikki know we’d arrived. Inside was a large stone fireplace, ceramic tile floor and two bedrooms. All the details fit the European style with iron bedframes, heavy ornate doors, beautiful art and embroidered linens.
Once Kostas arrived we sat to eat a simple fresh feast of Greek salad, spaghetti, plates heaped with olives, bread and cheese. I was suddenly starving. They asked where I wanted to sit. I surveyed the table finally picking the seat facing the sunset. Kosta’s poured me a generous glass of Ouzo. I did not decline.
Olive trees formed orderly lines away from the farm house. The opposite view had the vineyard which led my eye along the contours vines, into smooth lines right to the setting sun.
“Angie, welcome.” Kostas held up his glass. We picked up ours. “Thank you.” I was smiling. “May you have a wonderful holiday. Be healthy and come and visit us again.” We clinked glasses and drank. The smile on my face was stuck, child-like grinning. I looked around at everyone at the table, the friendly chatter, the slow and quiet end of day, the peace of sitting in the middle of a field of olives and grapes and the long beautiful shadows cast by the dropping sun. It was magic beyond this descriptive moment. I was in a farmer’s field in a yard of a small house with some people I just met, eating pasta and drinking ouzo feeling the alive-ness of the ordinary life of Nikki and Kostas. It. Hit. Every. Chord.
The conversation was bumping back and forth between my old friend Maria and my new friends but I wasn’t listening. I was looking and feeling. Doing everything I possibly could from my seat to take every detail in. I did not pick up my digital device to document anything. I let my brain and my heart do it all. Gratitude started rising—then a swell of joy. I put my hand on my chest. My eyes filled with tears. I touched Maria’s hand to get her attention. She looked at me and her eyes reciprocated my joy. “Tη έχει” The grandmother asked what was wrong. “I’m just so happy.” And then everyone overflowed. I said it out loud. I needed someone to witness this joy without any self-conscious hesitation. Although I answered in English grandma also began to cry, without even understanding what I had said. She felt it. And, like a good Greek grandma she scolded. “Aaah! Mας κανει να κλαιμε! Στο καλο!! And she makes us cry! Good grief!” We all laughed. Maria kindly and quickly explained how moved I was by the whole scenario. However, it didn’t need much explaining.
The moment was perfect. Those long shadows on to the water and across the olive groves reminded me that the day was slowly closing, that I better take in the perfection before another day opens up in front of me—that every moment needs to be lived.
A warm Saturday on the prairie I was driving home from a day at the beach. It was evening. The beach had cleared of all the sun lovers. My man and I walked around the village that was nestled lakeside. We loosened our joints all the while smelling the fragrance of lilacs and other springtime blossoms that led us back to the car.
We sat in silence while I drove. There was nothing to say. The music on the radio weaved its way around the car. There was not one cloud in the sky. Prairie hills rolled, soft like carpet as we carried on the highway. And, the sun, low on the horizon cast those long shadows again, reminding me that my day was slowly coming to an end and that I should make sure to take it all in because it’s magic—this life thing.
I had that same feeling in my heart today, here, an hour from home as I did a couple of years ago at the farm house. That feeling of full and satisfied came like dessert after a great meal. Watching the long shadows on the green grass of the prairie surrounded by living, growing things—I felt that swell again. I’m just so happy I thought. I put my hand on my boyfriend’s leg. He smiled with me. Whether I am here (Saskatchewan) or there (Greece) or anywhere really, I am doing my best to be aware and grateful.
Thank you long shadows for reminding me, for letting me get to the end of another day with that full heart, for my life and for a day that was so good I could not just toss it away, folded up, forgotten.