|The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt|
Sometimes dolphins follow the ferry.
In a bit more than two weeks I leave for my annual trip to Alonissos. Currently I'm annoying the stuffing out of my husband with it. Since I stay a month, everything that I won't be here to do must be done NOW. Right. Now.
When I return we're having much-needed work done on our house. That means getting all of that organized and ready NOW too.
With vacation approaching like the ping of an ice-cream truck, you can probably imagine how organized and together I am with preparations and scheduling. I can imagine it too. If only it were anywhere near the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants truth.
At night I can hear the sound of free-range cats and dance parties drifting up from the port.
My office now looks like the inside of a fairly clean dumpster that's been stuffed with the contents of a library. To expect that to ever change is delusional. It's my method (she says with a straight face without blinking), but I need to organize all the books I'm writing, update everything and get it all in portable and travel mode. Chargers and adapters and flash drives need fished out and readied. Bills paid. Contractors contracted. Schedules prepped. Flights, hotels, and ferries arranged. All the things in order NOW.
I never even knew I liked olives in a seaside cafe beneath a full moon.
It's quite a journey from here in the shire to that quiet island in the Aegean. Each click of the mouse prepping travel plans brings back memories of the place. The race to prep for vacation always makes me long to be there and done with hectic preparations.
Do you ever stop in the middle of vacation prep and wonder if it is even worth the effort? Alonissos is.
Sometimes I dream I'm floating around the island. In the air.
Vacation float is why we all go through the hassle of going. It takes time to achieve vacation float. I wish everybody could feel it. The world would be a better place. All the hassle and prep to get to Alonissos is why I stay so long. It takes me three days of travel to get there, but keep in mind I live in the shire and we don't have high-tech things like direct flights. It once took me three days to fly home from Nashville. I think I can drive there in half a day.
Most people here will decide between flying and driving based on which is faster. DC, Portland, Boston, heck—Orlando, you weigh flying time against driving effort. Driving often wins. There are always connecting flights here. Connections are uncooperative slippery bastards.
Retsina is an insidious Greek wine with a pine flavor that will bind you to this land.
There are usually only two airports that connect to the shire's. When you get to your gate coming home, you often know half the people there. It's a small town. Not only do I recognize faces but I could make an educated guess whether they've been to China on business or visiting a grown child in Colorado. I adore that about living here, and I'm a transplant. But when it comes to travel, small town life requires patience.
I'll leave here on a Friday morning and get to Athens on Saturday morning more than twenty-four hours later. That's if all goes according to plan, best case scenario. I spend that Saturday in Athens because I'll be exhausted and I can't get a flight to Skiathos until late anyway.
In Athens I can walk up to the Acropolis and visit the Caryatids.
Sunday I'll catch a flight to Skiathos. It's a short flight on Olympic Air. I saw Skiathos listed on one of those scariest airports to fly into sites. By scary what they mean is awesome.
Watch planes land from the rooftop seating of Sofia's Family Restaurant in Skiathos, as the sun sets.
You can eat anything you like at Sofia's because you burned all those calories climbing the steep winding steps of the alleys to get there. Sometimes I don't linger in Skiathos until after my workshop ends. If I'm running behind schedule I share a taxi with strangers from the Skiathos airport and we race straight for the port to catch a ferry.
There are different kinds of ferries. The hydrofoil skims over the water and the trip is fast. I prefer to take the giant slow one. Its so big the hull is full of trucks and cars. There are several decks. It takes hours of gliding through the sea and stops on Skopelos first.
Skopelos is where the Mama Mia island is located. It's absolutely gorgeous. The first time I went to my workshop in Greece I couldn't believe my luck. Skopelos makes a cameo appearance in my book HEARTLESS. What were the odds that I'd be next door to it at a writing workshop the year it came out?
Water foams white and arctic blue like peppermint breath mints as the ferry slices the Aegean. I sip cherry juice wearing a straw hat.
The reason I like my slow approach is it's my transition time from busy me to human being. Sometimes I'll meet other writers with the same destination on the ferry. We'll know each other even if we're strangers. A few times I've made friends with other solo female travelers also shunning the more popular islands, in search of the stillness of the Old World that lingers in hidden lavender patches and olive groves of Alonissos.
If I'm very lucky I'll find my float somewhere in the long hours of introspective writing time that's coming. Occasionally I'll sense its approach as my shoulders relax, my breath deepens, and words evaporate from my lips to nest in my fingertips.
Sure I write all the time, but on Alonissos I write with paper, pencils and magic. It's delicious.
This will be my fourth year attending the WRA workshop. I know the shape of the island from a distance. The ferry will curve outward before turning to approach the big dock. Around me people will hurry to gather their belongings. We'll all lumber down two or three floors into the bowels of the ferry to gather bigger luggage.
Docking is quick. Trucks and cars disembark alongside people, flooding the Hellenic Seaways dock with chaos. The woman who runs the pansion I stay at meets me at the ferry. She's clever and quick and looks like movie star. Her voice is accented with the strong undertones of hard Greek, "Kali-sperra, Steph-an-ie. Welcome, welcome home." Beside her is the powerhouse who runs WRA. It feels like coming home, and in a way it is—it's my writer home. Like a turtle I carry my writer home on my back at all times, but also like a turtle I remember where I discovered it and long to return every year.
The beaches are white with salty stones from the sea. I melt into them.
I get why nobody wants to hear about my trip. Life isn't fair. Holidays are a luxury, especially Greek holidays. My husband has to stay here and work. My kids have nothing to say about a trip their mother takes that is more epic than their young adult vacations. That just goes against the natural order doesn't it? Even writing friends who've attended the workshop in the past don't want to hear about it. No one can go every year. Eventually the pilgrimage ends.
We pack up our float and hope the airline doesn't ruin it before we get home. I strongly suspect I harbor quite a bit of float within. It just takes quiet to find, and I can't quite find quiet in the chaos of my busy home life.
Cicadas blast eardrums as we lean knee to knee reading aloud. We talk faster, racing the ferry before it docks and drowns all other sound.
Yet I've had the privilege of being in this place and the honor of meeting some of the most amazing women I've ever known as we write together. Each year we raise each other up. Each year my writing voice grows stronger. Bitch Witch. Nobody Told Me. Each year my speaking voice grows stronger too.
Perhaps I've now given you a glimpse of why I can't shut up about my amazing float story. Perhaps you have one of your own? I hope you do. If so I don't think you should STFU about it. I think you should share it too, don't you? As a wise woman once told me, don't be afraid to speak even if your voice shakes.