Every morning, when I wake up I go to the kitchen door, open the upper half and spend a few moments looking. It isn’t the most dramatic view, no dazzling ocean or sweeping valley. It isn’t the Lake District or the Rocky Mountains. It is a quiet rural view across the Aegean, from Syros to Sifnos. I can see patches of vineyard, pony paddocks and sheep fields. There are rows of olive trees dotted about, small lanes weave up the soft hill scape on either side of the blue waters of the Aegean beyond the vineyard. The morning sun casts different shadows, calm sounds of goats and chickens, soft movements of boats in the distance. It is a patchwork of peace and solace. It is a view that welcomes you in, invites you to examine its many facets. It is a slow burning, endlessly fascinating view that lifts your heart.
There are bumps and hollows out there that have names, Finikas village and Marina are on the horizon to my right, the Catholic Church in Poseidonia rises from the morning mist on my left. Elegant blues and whites scattered among the raw marble stonework, a stylish yacht may have anchored in the night, close enough to see the sail rigging, a farmer near by is pruning his grapes.
I know there has always been a man there pruning his grapes back into time. Homer came to Syros and wrote in the Odyssey that it was a “goodly isle, rich in herds, flocks, corn and wine.” The land feels connected back to Homer. Foreign boats have always pulled in to the shelter of Finikas Bay. The network of stone walls reaching up the hill sides have been built and repaired for hundreds of years. Even the rough cobbles near my own gate are remnants of a cowshed floor that is at least 400 years old. Everything speaks of a continual effort to make a living from this land, an effort as far back as civilization itself.
Time marks everything in the country. The time to prune, time to tie, time to clear and dig, build stone walls and plant new grapes. Ordinary day or month names seem inadequate, disrespectful almost compared with Michaelmas, Midsummer Day, equinox and solstice. The time of year sees our setting sun veer half way across the landscape, from setting high over the mountain to my left in midsummer, to the scarlet winter sunsets over the island of Sifnos in midwinter. It is a place to be both fully alive in the moment and to contemplate the ending. Even that Homer describes as a blessing.
“But when the tribes of man grow old in that place, then comes
Apollo of the silver bow, together Artemis, and slays them with
The visitation of his gentle shafts.”
By Elspeth Geronimos