first impressions of Crete, Greece

abandoned house with brick oven, Crete (July 2016)

This past July around my birthday I dipped down from London to Crete. Years ago I had been gifted a free time-share exchange week from one set of parents that had never been used. And because it's much cheaper to fly within Europe than to and from, it was a relatively inexpensive trip. My younger sister flew over to join me for the week. We rented a small bright-blue car, and she became the driver. I couldn't really comfortably afford a vacation-within-a-vacation, but I'd just finished half a year of cancer treatment six months before, so who cared about a little thing like money? I needed to feel like I was living, not just surviving. And when traveling, one feels memorably alive, experiences and impressions intense.

hanging grapes, Crete (July 2016)

The Mediterranean has always called to me. I had been to Italy once with my college best friend in my early 20s, to several famous Italian cities, the Amalfi Coast, Anacapri. I hadn't expected to ever see Greece, and yet there we were, zipping around hills of old olive groves in our little blue car with views of ancient ruins and the sea beyond, to the sounds of Greek pop music on the radio and the quiet roar of cicadas whenever we stopped for photos. Once past the Heraklion airport, it was love at first sight.

ancient Minoan ruins of Gournia, Crete, Greece (July 2016)

olive trees, Crete

Minoan rooms, Vassiliki, Crete (July 2016)

We parked and photographed the ruins of Gournia and climbed around the remaining walls of Vassiliki on our way southeast to the hotel. We saw grapes hanging along a wire fence, the white shell remains of thousands of tiny snails, the shed skin of a snake. I wore a secondhand leather cowboy hat against the hot sun, the cicadas like a background orchestral track. We kept grinning at each other.

rock shadow self-portrait, Vassiliki, Crete

Six months later, life is . . . harder again, nearing winter in the gray, wet, chilly Northwest. I am recovering from the national election and reconstructive surgery, drowning in medical bills, despite a Gold-level insurance plan. I went back on my anti-depressant. I am, as we say, at a crossroads, seeking direction. Some days, I feel like an animal in a cage. I fear what this level of stress could do for cancer recurrence. The problem with vacations is that they give you only a taste of freedom. In my mind I return to Crete where I was temporarily safe and warm, buoyed aloft by the salty waters of an older, calmer life.

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