“As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.“
C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems
We set out for Ithaca with only dreams of rest but what we received, during the not quite full two days we were there is much more.
We received a revelation.
Things looked bright when we set out for the island and sister and brother in law announced they will be travelling in the same direction and not only that, that we will be all staying in the same hotel!
We took the ferry from Patras, the harbour in which so many immigrants have arrived over the last years, full of hope for a better future and apprehension of the new.
Although we were doing the reverse trip, so to say, our hope has been this summer that we too will be able to build upon catastrophe, loss and pain and maybe we will see the new as something exciting, at some point in the future, although a very precious little soul of a boy will always be missed from our midst.
Our trip took two and a half hours to Kefalonia, from where we took a smaller boat to Ithaca.
We travelled without a car this time so the tickets were around 25 euro per person. Emma is still too young to pay, they do not charge for children younger than 6 in Greece for public transport.
We arrived on the island late afternoon and made our way to Vathy, the main village on the island. We stopped several times on our 20 minute journey to take pictures, as the island had cast its spell on us already with its breathtaking views.
The imperfect simile was not lost to me.
Thinking of Odysseus I realised that the war trauma required most likely the time it took him to heal in order to function again as a member of society, a king and a husband.
It took him ten full years to return “home”.
We have been travelers of sorts too now, for the past year.
We find temporarily relief in various things like good food and writing and working hard but at the end of the day, our search for “home” is only at its beginnings.
We need to give ourselves time too to get lost in our grief in order to be able to find our way home.
There is no other way to survive pain and if Odysseus needed so much time to heal for the horrors of the memories of war and make peace with them, we shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations of inner peace either…
We enjoyed the island, more than we had expected too.
What is not to love about azure blue seas, excellent sea food and loved ones’ company?
We needed this time away and the permission to move slowly, with the rhythm of the island.
Time which is measured here not in things ticked on a list but in home cooked food( do check out the Poseidon fish restaurant, in which Tina Turner took time to learn the secrets of slow lived life too!), in slow boats that drop you off a ladder(quite literally!) onto exotic looking beaches that can’t be reached otherwise and in ice cream shared way past midnight with the family in the village square.
Price wise, the island is accessible even at the peak of the season. We had two meals out, in two different restaurants and both bills, for four grownups and a child, were 68 euro each. That is about 25 pounds per couple, per dinner, for fresh from the sea fish and delicious salads and starters.
The boats that take you to various beaches from the small port in Vathy are 10 euro per person, return. Once again, small children do not pay.
We stayed in the Mentor Hotel facing the port, which for a family room and breakfast at the top of tourist season charged us 170 euro(120 pounds) for two nights!
Odysseus’ island offered us respite but most importantly, his story has offered us permission to take our time.
In our travels, in our grief, in our living.
To allow our hearts to heal at their own pace.
To live without rushing, in awe of the our love, our survival journey and our future.
Imperfect, as it is contouring to be.
But perfect in its fulness of experiences.