Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Threshold Of The Unknown


“Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish.” (Quran, 7:199)
* * *

We had a disturbing experience the other day on a Greek island, the name of which I'll not mention.

We came across the scene of a crime -- a minor crime, most likely, though my mind fretted the possibilities of worse.

Upon arriving at the island, we met a Swedish sailor. He told us of a wonderful walk we could do.

“At the end of the street is a path and you walk for about an hour. Then there is a bay and you can take the ferry to the other side. And then you can walk back along that path,” he explained while pointing first the left shore, and then to the right shore of the bay.

The proposed walk starts where the houses end on the left. Note the dark area in the mid-valley. That features later in this story as a centuries-old farm of some sort.
For three days Jennifer and I wanted to do the walk, but we never got around to it. Late in the afternoon of our last day in the bay, we finally cinched the laces of our walking shoes and headed out. The sun was aslant and added urgency to our pace.

The street ended at the bottom vee of a broad rocky valley. No promised path. There was, however a fence-lined lane which looked well-traveled by goats. We followed the lane about fifty yards to a shearing pen with remnants of wool tufts snagged in the fence. We stepped over a gate and followed the semblance of a path. It was the route of the goats, where their hooves roughed the island between the rocks to dusty red dirt littered with a steady trail of droppings.

Sure enough, after another ten minutes of following the ravine’s trough, we came upon the herd.

Either disturbed by our presence or reminded that it was nigh dinnertime, they jostled into motion, eventually forming single file trotting toward the pen as their bells jangled and clanked in dull tolls.

Sheep trundling home.
We marched on, watching our step, less because of the droppings but to avoid a twisted ankle along this rocky “path.”

About halfway up the ravine, we came upon rock walls which might have included the original pen from hundreds of years ago. A large area of several acres was segmented into parcels, and terraced in a way typical of hillsides cultivated for what little agriculture can be sustained.

An abandoned agricultural estate.
Further along our hike, some twenty or thirty minutes from the village, we came upon a small area of cleared rocks about a yard or two in diameter. There were remnants of a bonfire. Surrounding the fire pit were lumps of things, shapeless items I didn’t recognize as anything else than stuff left over from an evening around a bonfire. But on the second sweep, I made out individual pieces of clothing: a down winter jacket, a pair of sweatpants or hosing of some kind, a bag -- stuff half-burnt at the edges of the fire pit.

Something felt wrong about this scene. These weren’t the remnants of a jovial bonfire: the strewn items were too personal. And now on a third, fourth and eight visual sweep of the area, I realized it was not a bonfire that had burned here, but a small fire to burn things, some of the items. Evidence.

Unease filled me, like an off taste that makes you stop chewing after biting into something you expected to be pleasant. With trepidation I squatted near the pit.

I found no stick, so I used my hands to tug on something lying in the charcoaled dust. It was a black plastic bag wrapped tightly around something the size of my fist. The heavy garbage bag had been taped many times to seal it around its contents. But on one side, it had been ripped open.

Pulling the plastic aside with the same reluctance as if extracting something dead from a shell, I pulled out a green velvet-bound book. The corners had been ornately reinforced with metal guards, which now were rusted. A journal, I thought at first. I opened it and saw the Arabic script. Still confused, my next thought was a songbook. And then it dawned on me: a Quran.

Quran with rusted corner protectors. The pages are brown from rust, not fire, even though you can see charcoal from the fire pit it was near.
Quran rescued from being discarded, but too late to be reunited with its owner.
Instantly, the scene was steeped in sinister. Although it was still daylight and warm, I felt overcome by darkness and a baleful chill.

I took the small Quran into the protection of my hand while Jennifer and I continued our walk to the nearby ridge. We speculated what could have happened at that pit.

The view from the ridge was stunning. To the north, we could see the bay of the island’s main harbor. Beyond that, the Aegean. To the west, the sun soft and cloaked in orange. To the east, across a strait: the mainland of Turkey, the Orient, the likely origin of the Quran in my hand.

The eerie yet beautiful landscape contrasted with our disorienting discovery.
On the descent we stopped by the pit again. Again I was reluctant to touch the items lying about. Why are we like that? Just like the dead bird that kids stumble upon and poke with a stick, this was the threshold of the unknown. The unknown is always infused with threat. Discovering the abandoned Quran heightened my sense of reckoning and damnation.

With the tips of my fingers I tugged at a black lump. It was an inexpensive lady’s handbag. I picked it up and looked in. It was musty and empty. Nearby was a pair of velor sweatpants clumped between the rocks. Whatever took place here, took place months ago. This was not a fresh event.

My mind wandered through the possibilities of what happened.

A woman was separated from her handbag and at least some of her clothes. We can assume that among the belongings there was more than simply the Qu'ran, but those things were gone. Was the woman robbed elsewhere by local hoodlums who hiked up here to examine their loot? That seems unlikely since they would not have brought her winter jacket and sweatpants up here. Was the woman lured up here and robbed? Did a worse fate befall her here?

One can assume that whatever occurred here, it was not investigated by authorities. Otherwise, the Qu'ran would not still be here, half wrapped in plastic. One cannot help but worry. What befell this woman who lost her dearest possession: her Qu'ran, something she took great pains to protect? Who protects their Qu'ran by wrapping it in thick plastic and crisscrossing that package with tape? Perhaps a person who had to travel lightly with only a few treasured belongings through perilous conditions. Perhaps a refugee.

* * *

A few weeks ago, during one of our first legs along the Turkish coast, I was testing our various electronic equipment including Phoenix’s NavTex weather system. NavTex is not just a weather-report system similar to America’s NOAA weather radio, but it is also the official notification system of all navigational information including changes, warnings and rescue alerts.

I was pleased to see our NavTex receiving all the bulletins properly. I scrolled through them and saw one of particular interest: Mariners were advised to avoid an area close to where we were because rescue operations were underway around a ship in distress.

A few days later I came upon a news report on the disaster. A boat smuggling migrants from the Turkish shore to a Greek island had sunk, and 61 people drowned. The death toll included 12 men, 18 women, 28 children, and 3 babies. Rescuers were able to save 46 people. Most of the people aboard were Syrians and Palestinians fleeing their troubled homelands.

You can read more about that tragedy here.

I try not to think too vividly about human horrors because once such images lodge in my mind, they haunt me during off-guard moments throughout the day and in metamorphic forms in my dreams.

Yet, in my mind’s eye, I can see the flotsam drifting southwards long after the cries gurgled to silence: a coat, suitcases, a black handbag. They washed against the rocks.

It was probably a bunch of boys who spied it while seeing who could throw rocks the farthest. They clambered down, fished the items out of the sea, and took their bounty up to their regular hangout, the pit. They rummaged the pockets, opened the handbag, found some foreign currency, and divided it evenly amongst themselves. They dared each other to open the plastic package. 

The lanky guy spit backward over his shoulder, grabbed the package from his buddy and tore it open. Without pulling out the book, he cocked his head this way, then that trying to determine what it was.

“Just a book,” the pimply-faced one said, craning his neck to see.

The lanky guy put his thumb to the edge and pried it open just enough.

“Quran,” he said and threw it away from him as if it was suddenly too hot.

“Quran?” asked the third.

“Leave it,” said Lanky. “Let’s go. I’m hungry.”

* * *

The God of Jews, the God of Christians, is the God of Muslims. In the 7th Century, this God revealed to Muhammad 114 chapters of verses over the course of 20 years. After Muhammad’s death, the verses were compiled into the Quran.

The Quran, according to Wikipedia, acknowledges that the original Christian or Jewish texts of the Bible were authentic divine revelations. In fact, “Moses is mentioned more in the Quran than any other individual. Jesus is mentioned more often in the Quran than Muhammad while Mary is mentioned in the Quran more than the New Testament.”

It seems there are several options for an abandoned Quran. Again, according to Wikipedia, it can be left free to flow in a river, kept somewhere safe, burned, or buried in a remote location. I suppose I could also leave it at a mosque.

Is this, in fact, a Quran? Perhaps, as a friend tells me, it could possibly be a Hadith or "accompanying text" to the Quran.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why Greece Will Survive the Economic Crisis

This is Symi, Greece:

Symi, Greece. To the left is the main harbor. The bay on the right is Pedi.
This is what the main harbor looks like:

Symi harbor. The house colors are strictly regulated by the municipality.
Notice how all the sailboats are nicely lined up at the Symi wharf. More of that, later.
Symi harbor is a tourist destination. And, over time, that mission has replaced almost all else. Think Provincetown, if you know Cape Cod. In a few days from now, almost every single shop in Symi will close. 


This store sells fashionably casual clothes to tourists who come in by the ferry loads.
This is another angle of the house in the previous shot. It is a jewelry shop that is already closed for the season.
Symi harbor is beautiful and photogenic. And because of that, it seems romantic. But ultimately, I found it too much like a film stage for tourists.

We got lucky by misfortune. (A repetitive theme in my life.) We didn't dock in Symi harbor. The way to dock in Symi is to drop your anchor in the middle of the harbor (almost inevitably having to untangle it later from the anchor spaghetti when you leave) and then backing into an available slot. Almost always, there is a steady cross-breeze blowing in the harbor just to add fun to the exercise. The combination of the HC33's renown poor backing performance combined with my lack of experience in this procedure led us to decide to head for Pedi bay. That turned out to be much better anyway in so many ways.

We made our way from Pedi to the harbor by a bus and once by a scooter we rented. But you can also do the trip by foot. It takes about an hour. You set out from the back row of houses in the harbor on a street called the Kali Strata. It is comprised of a series of steps interspersed with flat inclines. It is said to have been the traditional road traveled by foot, but also with donkeys pulling wagons. 

We walked up the Kali Strata for a bit and saw evidence of the harbor's thin veneer. Some long-abandoned houses have their harborside facades painted, but are nothing more than shells inside. For instance, go back to the second photograph in this post and look closely at the white house. You will notice it is an empty shell.

A house on the Kali Strata, Symi. I wonder why they filled the doorway and windows. For stabilization? More aesthetic than fences to keep the rifraff out?
Some old estates still had their original, stunningly beautiful wooden doors.
How can you not fantasize about renovating one of these grand homes and living part-time in Greece? A number of the homes had founding dates of the late 1800s engraved in entrances, just like this one.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not throwing Cupid out with the bathwater. While I might find the village too seasonal and too touristy, I appreciate the veneer. I applaud the Greek pride which makes them paint their abandoned buildings to keep the harbor pretty.

 *** WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG TO BRING YOU A RECORDED DEBATE BETWEEN MATHIAS AND JENNIFER THAT OCCURED DURING EDITING OVER COFFEE ***

(My fingers were prasseling the keyboard at incredible speeds while we were talking. "What? Are you recording my words exactly?" Jennifer asked at one point.)

JENNIFER: "I don't like that you're panning Symi."

MATHIAS: "I'm not panning Symi, I'm just asking you for a word or some description that would characterize that it lacks depth; that's is not really 'real.'"

JENNIFER: "I wouldn't want to ink it in as overtouristy. It is a beautiful Greek island. Of course it's going to have tourists. That's just the way it is. To single Symi out and say it is touristy, but not Datja ... Every single place we go, is the same." 

MATHIAS: "What about Fourni; how do you describe the difference? That had NO tourist shops. Isn't Fourni more authentic?"

JENNIFER: "Yeah, but Fourni is not as pretty."

MATHIAS: "But don't you think that's because there aren't tourist bringing in money to make it pretty?"

JENNIFER: "I think it's a chicken and egg thing. How did Fourni escape that? I don't know."

MATHIAS: "Because it doesn't have a deep water harbor for the huge ferry boats."

JENNIFER: "I don't know why I'm being so rabid about this. There just aren't that many tourists shops in Symi." 

MATHIAS: "Yeah, but still 90 percent of the shops are tourist shops."

JENNIFER: "They're not as eager to make money. It's just not the vibe that I get. We visited half a dozen places with a more sell-out vibe. How about Bodrum? That's a sell-out with its discos and trinket shops. Symi doesn't have any discos and all those stupid shops. Symi's quiaint. And outside of Symi's there's nothing. So all the locals know they have only a short time to make as much money as they can from the tourists that visit."

MATHIAS: "Yeah, but that would argue more to my point that are using the town as a tourist trap."

JENNIFER: "But Symi just isn't. They have a beautiful old port town that they dump day trippers into, but it's just a few. I mean, you write what you want, but tell people that if they want a different view of Symi, to talk to me."

 *** WE NOW RETURN TO THE REGULARLY SCHEDULED BLOG ALREADY IN PROGRESS ***

If you keep on walking up the Kali Strata, you come to the old town of Symi, on the hill. Then on the downside of the hill, you will come to Pedi bay. (We didn't do the walk, and the following shot was actually leaving town the other way on a scooter.)

Symi's Pedi bay.
At the village in the cove, you have not only arrived in Pedi, you have arrived in Greece. The differences between these two bays and their villages is day and night. More than that: False and real. New and old. Obsequensce and honesty. 

Symi harbor caters to what you want to see of Greece. Pedi harbor shows you what Greece is whether you recognize it or not. 

As I said, we arrived here by default: My humility in retreating from Symi harbor and proceeding to Pedi allowed me to discover a genuine side of the island (and Greece) we otherwise never would have known.

My first photograph introduced you to Symi. This one introduces you to Greece:

Greece as represented in an 8 foot by 12 foot room.
I love this shot of Greece. Before we move on, notice the rusted wheelbarrow. Notice the single (not multiple) wine bottle on the floor in the background. Notice the slatted wood on the windows. Certainly not tight enough to keep birds or even cats out, so why are they there? (Especially when the unfinished doorway is completely open?)

So why is this Greece? Let's pull out and take a look.

The above room is in this unfinshed marina house which was presumably designed to accommodate an office, a utility room and some bathrooms. Notice how the painting of the building was abandoned mid-stroke, half-way.
The room; the building was part of a plan: a marina. It was a dream, actually: to make Pedi as grand as Symi harbor. Let's pull out and take a look.

The abandoned marina at Pedi harbor on Symi, Geece.
If you zoom in, you will see the blocks stacked up on the quay wall that were supposed to act as mooring anchors so Pedi could have laid mooring lines, an improvement over Symi harbor, designed to avoid the anchor spaghetti. You might also see our boat alongside. But to make it easier, here is a shot of Phoenix.

Phoenix docked at the non-existing Pedi Marina. The trough in the foreground is laid with PVC pipes for electric and water lines.
Zooming in on the shot would not give you the delicious detail of just how finished this dock is, so I took some extra shots:

Our stern line. And why not? It has held Phoenix perfectly well for three days. 
Ok, I admit, I added an additional line a day later. A boat neighbor talked to a Greek resident who allowed me to lay a line to "his" rebar about fifty, sixty feet away. Do you like my chafe gear of a towel tied around my docking line?

So why is Pedi the real Greece? Where do I begin? How far do I go back? Who do I introduce you to first? The grocer? The emigrant homeowner? The "economic refugee" from Germany living on his boat?

Let's start with the last because he helped us dock.

The liveaboard "economic refugee from Bavaria" grows his own basil and tomatoes, makes his own bread and collects water via tarps in winter. Solar panels provide what electricity he needs, and books the stimulation of his brain.
We fell into talking and quickly found a common language in German. He was an "economic refugee" from Germany. He was living off his retirement money. Very economically. From the looks of his boat, I'm surprised he made it down here. I asked him about the rough condition of the dock.

It was a classic Greek tale that we heard confirmed from several sources in the village. An investor got easy credit from a bank. The bank got easy credit from the EU banking system when spirits where high. Then the crash of 2008 hit. There was no more money to finish the project. Bankruptcy. Lawsuits. Who knows? Who cares? Point is: It wasn't going to be finished. 

It was the same with the windgenerator, he said, pointing to the ridgeline. There was the windmill. Tall, modern, proud and without blades. A power company had built it. But then they needed a facility to coordinate the power generation with a plant in the valley. But by then America's economic crises (based on unreasonable housing loans) had hit Europe and no more credit was available; not to private marinas nor to utility companies. So now, on an island that desparately needs power, a windmill doesn't mill the wind.

In the town, the grocer charges more for his groceries than average. But only by a margin that makes one wonder why he isn't more coniving. Well, because he's Greek.

"I'm making enough," he would probably say. 

But try and take advantage of him, and you will be treated as a tourist. We heard one "tourist" sailor complain to us: "He won't sell me just a loaf of bread. He forces me to buy more."

I can't even imagine how it came to that face-off. The grocer and his wife are friendly. They have been patient in teaching us new Greek words. And the first time we bought from them, it came to no more than a few Euros. 

We met an original Symi resident, George, who emigrated to Australia in the 1950s when he was 18. 

There were two mass emigrations from Symi. One following the occupation of Symi by the Italians following WWI. Then another in the 1970s. All in all, about 20,000 to 25,000 islanders left, leaving only one tenth of the population behind. About half went to Australia. The other half to Florida because there was sponge fishing there, a famous skill of Symians.

George was, despite living in Australia, classic Greek. We got into a conversation with him at a gas station and mentioned that we had a hard time finding water for our tanks. He invited us over to his house in which he had built a rainwater collection system. Since he was leaving for the winter (back to Australia) and had plenty of water left in his tanks, he said we should come and get some.

George, like several other Greeks we have met, repeated the same story to us: Why should Greece be blamed for being Greece? Yes, it is true that Greeks don't work 9 to 5. But if you have ever spent time here, you will know that is not possible. In the height of the day, it is just too damn hot. But talk to anyone (and we have) and you will know Greeks work just as many hours as anyone. Starting at six or seven, they will work until midnight.  

That was confirmed last night for us again at the restaurant where we were told that most Greeks don't come in for dinner until about ten. In Rhodes, the live music performances don't start until midnight.

No doubt, there is an attitude of "tomorrow." But so what? That has served well for thousands of years. The problem now is that modern imperialist capitalism wants "Today!" 

The reason I like the photo of the room with the concrete bags as the epitomy of Greece is this: The bags are still there. No one has stolen the concrete even though the project has been abandon for several years and poverty in the village could certainly find other usages for the material. The room's only evidence of "oh well" is one single bottle of wine. In America, the concrete would have been stolen. In the neighborhoods I have lived (both urban and rural) there would have been multiple, smashed bottles of beer and wine. 

We have talked to a number of Greeks about the economy in three different ports so far. All seem to have the same feeling: They are being blamed because they are an easy target. The Americans began the financial crisis and Europe became infected. The Europeans began looking for the weakest link in the chain and turned to Greece. 

"Why not Italy?" our Australian immigrant asked. "They owe much more than Greece."

What is particularly hurtful is that Greeks know that it is the rich people in their country that are causing the most trouble.

"They refuse to pay taxes," said the owner of scooter rental place. 

"Of course, the rich never pay," said George.

Echoing their voices was the New York Times story this week that the Greek goverment has "lost" a list of 2,000 rich Greek citizens who have bank accounts in Switzerland. 

The reason why I think the Greeks will survive this economic crisis is, well, because they have survived many a crisis for thousands of years. They pre-dated the Romans and outlasted the Romans. They have been invaded by the Ottomans and have repelled the Ottomans. Symi was occupied by the Italians for decades and eventually rid themselves of the Italians. 

Not many countries have experienced the rollercoaster that Greeks have and yet endured. 

Pedi is a great harbor. Better than Symi, if you ask me. Quieter. Easier to dock. Nicer people. People who give you free water if you make friends with them. And grocers who teach you Greek. Pedi will survive a developer who didn't finish a marina. 

Pedi will do just fine. 

Tomorrow.

Today is just too hot. Economically and otherwise.
Most of these houses in Pedi along the "marina" are vacant. Invest today if you have an American entrepenuial spirt. Tomorrow if you are Greek.
A close-up of the same street.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Temptation Is A Mysterious Island

I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey.


It seemed a fairly ordinary evening when Mathias and Jennifer Dubilier, two normal sailors, left their boat in a dinghy that late October afternoon to visit a certain tiny rocky island upon which they saw, from afar, the remains of an ancient and most curious ruin.

It’s true there were dark storm clouds,
heavy,
dark,
pendulous,
and already thundering
in the bay their boat was anchored.

It’s true also that the outboard motor for their dinghy was electric, and being so, had only so much charge and could go only so fast.

But they being normal sailors on an outing ... well, they weren’t going to let a storm spoil the rest of their afternoon, were they?

If all of the above sounds vaguely familiar to you, then you spent too many times seeing the Rocky Horror Picture Show and recognize the opening words of the narrating criminologist.

His words swirled in my head as we headed out on this ill-advised adventure. We had been wanting to visit this island for the entire ten days we have been in this bay.

But now there was just 45 minutes of sunlight left before it set behind the mountain range. It was to be our last day in this bay. And so now, impatience was clouding the better part of judgment. And now it was thundering. In our defense, may I state that the previous three days the rumblings of thunder rolled through our bay while the storm stayed on the other side of the steep, craggy mountain range to our north.

And in my own personal defense, may I add, I warned Jennifer that this was foolhardy.

She looked at me, smiling.

“Where’s my sense of adventure, right?” I said as I twisted the throttle on the outboard and propelled us toward the island.

Islands present the ultimate temptation. 
With binoculars we could see these fort wall ruins. What was so worth protecting? Just temptation itself or something more?
We whirred the half-mile across the bay and circled around to the backside of the island where I knew, from a previous drive-by, the island flattened out to a sandy shore.

Stepping ashore, we were surprised to be greeted by a warren of rabbits. The whole island was riddled with burrows. Some in the ground; many in tiny caves among the crags.

Just like Alice slipping down the rabbit hole, it distorted our sense of place and reality. How could these rabbits exist on such a barren little rock? It didn’t look like there was enough for them to eat. And why rabbits and not, say, goats?

Surely not descendants of the Knights of St. John. So how did they get here? Someone suggested locals let them breed here and then harvest them as desired. I would like to think it is simply a mysterious anomaly. 
Another rumble of thunder reminded us to tackle our ascent before it was too late. We had heard, it is true, that the path was rocky and unreliable. We had heard, to be even more honest, that the rocks were loose and footing was unreliable.

We began our scramble in no more than our “water shoes” which we had worn for landing the dinghy. The rocks poked through my thin rubber shoes. Looking up, I saw the remnants of a wall and an opening that may have been a gate, but may have been just a failed part of the wall.

In middle foreground, you can see an opening the wall. All the way at the horizon, you can see two reasonable people about the begin the descent, given the weather conditions.
This is a "Find Jennifer" photograph.
It doesn’t give us any further credit that the half dozen others we encountered on the island were winding their way back down the small hill, toward the safe refuge of their dinghies and closely-anchored boats. I mentally noted each twist we made in the path, looking back downward so I would recognize it later upon our descent.

We fetched the summit and were rewarded with the full visual impact we had staked our safety on. It was gorgeous. The clouds had more texture because of their fullness, because of their various shades of white, grey and dark. The sun shone behind, between and in front of the clouds like carefully planned stage lighting, illuminating greens and the surrounding mountains’ earth-red. The water was richly blue. And we could well imagine how a fortification here would securely protect against any invaders.

Selimiye Bay, Turkey, in the foreground, as seen from the tiny island's summit.
Castle grey walls and disturbingly blue water.
The village of Orhaniye, Turkey where we shopped at the Saturday market twice.
But who were those protected? Against whom was protected?

We had asked around the harbor a bit to no avail. The guide book guru of the Aegean, Rod Heikell, writes in the latest edition of his book of this area that the ruins “may have had ancient foundations, but is more than likely of Medieval origin.”

One of the greatest Medieval forces in this area were the Knights of St. John. They started out around 600 AD as a mission to provide medical care for pilgrims to Jerusalem. And then, perhaps just as now, the medical business turned out to be quite lucrative. There were invasions and the hospitals had to be protected, and the Knights of St. John became as adept at wielding the sword as the scalpel. But in the 1200s the Ottoman finally forced them out of Jerusalem. They retreated to Cyprus and brooded. They were pissed and had, in their opinion, the right god on their side. So after brooding and practicing swordfights for 100 years, they decided to fight the Ottomans. They did and were quite successful. They built castles all up and down the Turkish coast and on many of the Dodecanese islands. That lasted in this area for about 250 years and then the Ottomans whooped them again.

The Knights retreated to Malta and had quite a run there. They became known as the coast guard of the Mediterranean, protecting trade against the Barbary pirates and, yeah, they had good hospitals too.

So, was it possible we were standing on the ruins of a fortification built by the Knights of St. John?

Whoever walked the battlements atop the fort surely would have looked out one evening and seen the same scene we did. To the west, two boats were hurrying ahead of a line of rain, rushing toward port before being assailed by water and possibly lightning.
Two sailboats flee the storm which you can see prasseling the water a few miles behind them.
And indeed, as if reenacting that evening from a thousand years ago, the first fat drops began to fall on Jennifer and me. A few seconds later, I saw beautiful but terrifying bolts of lightning cleave the sky into patterns which, if photographed, some professor might use to portray string theory.

“Time to go,” I said all captain-like as if the gods hadn’t spoken with more authority all evening long.

Marti Marina, where we stayed for quite a while, but then joined the anchored group you can see in front of the marina.
Before leaving the hill top -- even after the first lightning strkes -- we just had to waste a few more precious moments to get a telephoto zoom photograph of our lovely Phoenix.
Going down a slip-slidey slope is much more fraught with real and imagined dangers than climbing up. Now our feet were sliding a few inches before finding enough ground to take the next step. The rocks were becoming wet and slick.

Three quarters of the way down, I found a ledge under a tree.

“We’ll wait out the worst of it here,” I proclaimed in some voice that, even in my own ears, sounded like it came from some horridly bad actor in a B-rated western.

But as soon as I sat down and glanced over at the dinghy (which was only half-pulled ashore) I stood up again. I remembered our recent incident in which the dinghy was flipped by high winds and rescued only by the grace of Greek fishermen.

“No, we need to secure the dinghy,” I continued in my John Wayne stand-in voice.

By now, I was within about 30 yards of the dinghy and suddenly became aware that all the rabbits had disappeared. Sort of like when the rats desert the ship. Not a good sign.

I reached the dinghy and pulled it ashore. Oddly, just as I did, the intermittent rain, seemed to lessen.

We climbed a lower ridge to look over toward the west and north. The sky was clearer that way. The weather had lashed us with the very tip of long bullwhip and then apparently moved on.

Relieved, we walked down to the dinghy, shoved off and wrung the electric motor into forward whir.

It was a 15-minute ride across a blue bay, under a sky whose disposition was of still-stern mother who now, upon recognizing she had issued her admonishment, is beautiful in her transition from anger to forgiveness.