Memory lives beyond photographs. I carry this in my ability to gut a fish and play backgammon, and in a small gold watch. I filled the watch’s face with sands from the island, a reminder to ignore the unnecessary. I’ve never forgotten the island, but I almost never speak of it. I promised not to reveal its name.
The ferry into Greece was thrilling – the two of us in sleeping bags on the deck. With heavy gusts, we were weightless. Eos broke her dawn over the approaching crags – green masses shot from the waves.
Our goal was the cheapest hostel in Europe – E7.50 a night. In the complex of bungalows set in olive trees, travelers played backgammon and drank black wine from plastic bottles.
Talk over breakfast led us to another ferry. On that island, we pushed past a store of half-full shelves and a smatter of tourists. We crossed a goat-path bordered by a steep drop and sheer rock. Closer, they were less mythic and more imposing. Finally, we found a petite bay. Here, the sea, sand, and sky all met.
Above was an abode built in one of the island’s trees – low, winding, open at the center. Another tree was a café, with a small burner and long-handled coffee pot, a ‘briki’, the supplies tucked in branches of the tiny-leaved, knobby tree.
My partner set out, happily, to fish. By sunset, we had none. A man from the water, with almost a dozen fish linked by the lower lip. He caught too many, he insisted. Almost every night, our benefactor insisted we partake in his bounty, silhouetted by a generous sea.
Thyme grew steps away, the grandchild of the low trees. We soaked rice all day – the hot sand cooking the glass jar. Gradually, our world shrank to the few yards to the water, the café, our camp. All we needed was here.
At night, our campfires dimmed – no longer needed for cooking, nor heat. I’d never seen a constellation. Orion was a childhood friend from books, but his celestial presence was only three muddy dots. As a fellow islander told us tales half-forgotten, I saw for the first time: Scorpio on the tree-tops, chasing the Hunter. Directly over us, the Swan flew. I would fall asleep relaxed by its down, released into slumber by its wings.
Few things broke the idyll of our days. Waves lapped, not crashed. Colors only whispered.
Even if Poseidon stole back the shore, the island is safe in my memory. Such places stay with you. Each trip is replete with opportunities to find one. So, go. When you find somewhere the horizon meets, relax. Your heart will never leave.