It’s Greek, to me!
THERE you are, sitting quietly at Portakali, on Saturday morning.
You’re reading Athens Views.
Miss T is at the table too, with you under the big tree outside.
She’s wearing her sage face under her curly salt and pepper crop.
She’s focused on a book, and her short-legged old dog is patrolling, scowling, growling.
Mellie the Marauder you want to call her, the way she acts before she gets to know you.
What’s with these Greek women and their anti-social, suspicious dogs?
They think nothing of making a run for your ankles, whether you are a local or not (the dogs, not the women!).
Anyway, you’re just about to dip into A glimpse of life in the early iron age, a story about Exploring the unique settlement of Zagora on the island of Andros, according to the headlines, when Stuart walks up to you.
Stuart? You’ve never met him but remember, this is a tiny village you’re living in.
He’s interested in Vento, because he rescues dogs too.
He tells you a long story about how he and his wife — they are both regulars around here and let their house during the summer months — he tells you how they found two puppies dumped on the side of the road near Sigri, a village about 12km from Eressos; how some English fat cats paid thousands of pounds to get them transported to Heathrow Airport, two braks from Greece.
He waves his arms to demonstrate the size of the country property the dogs are running around on now.
Stuart wants to know about Vento.
You tell him that her name means wind in Greek. You’re holding a newspaper, so you must be intelligent?
He looks puzzled. No, it’s Spanish, he says, with indisputable authority .
Uhoh. You’ve trumpeted your ignorance in your blog. Drat!
There you were making assumptions again: a restaurant called Vento, run by two Greek women, who tell you the word means wind … it must be a Greek word, right?
Assumptions and expectations are not to be trusted. That much is clear.
Miss T raises her eyebrows and says ne? when you (humbly) say you should’ve checked your facts.
The next day, Sunday, you take Vento for her morning walk, and pop in at her place just steps from the gravel road.
You discuss accommodation, since you will be hiring her house for as long as you are in Eressos.
Out of this mansion of a place, with all its mod-cons and a CD collection you really like, into a typical village house: stone, wood, upstairs and downstairs; little wood-burning stove in the tiny sitting room.
You choose the bedroom above it, so you can absorb the warmth from the flue that runs up the wall to the chimaminee.
You’re thinking of when when the cold comes.
You’re very happy the house does not have petroleum heating — petroleum stinks.
And it’s super expensive to use, during winter.
It starts raining. You, Miss T and the dogs go inside.
She fans her face with a piece of paper, and crinkles her nose.
You’re also hit by the smell, since you’re on the sofa next to her.
Hmmm. Vento is living up to her name. Wind.
Thunder whips your ears, it’s so low.
By the afternoon, the sun is out and the Kaftan One is sitting (no, not on your face ha ha), she’s sitting with you on your larney verandah with the plants in pretty pots.
She’s enjoying the late Sunday lunch that you’ve cooked.
She tells you that in Norway they get rebates to dump petroleum heating systems.
They’re encouraged to change to eco-friendly ones.
You tell her about the house: a spacious yard with a big 10-seater table in it; plenty of place to plant vegetables and herbs.
It’s also got a terrace, a stoep at the top of the curling outdoor stairs. They take you, one step at a time, to a first class view of Skala, and the never-ending sea.
You’re going to be sharing this old old place for the first two months, from July 20.
A Turkish woman you have never met will move in, on July 16.
She’s a sanyasa, and will spend a lot of time, you suppose, at the Osho centre that’s plonked in some bushes a short distance from the village.
It must be karma, says Madame X, for she is also a devotee of this fringe cult, and sees karma and past lives in everything.
You were meant to stay with her. Is it karma that you are not?
Which reminds you.
You went to the centre too, once.
You watched Madame sway her head from side to side.
Her shiny auburn-burgundy-red hair (you loaded your suitcase with tons of henna from Fordsburg, Joburg, enough for a lifetime, she said) her hair, it was tied in a knot, a tennis ball size of colour in a colourless room. Six love?!
You saw them all jump up and say Wa, or something like that.
You watched a bearded and bulbous-eyed Mr Osho sitting there, holding forth in a DVD.
He raised a right hand (verily, you bet) and he said I say unto you … well!
That made you do like a donald and duck.
You’re spiritual but you don’t need someone to tell you so, especially a copycat!.
Nor do you want to live by what anybody says, by dogma and cant.
There are certain universal fundamentals and, as far as you are concerned, they do not require the rigidity or control of a so-called teacher, saint or guru to manifest themselves in you.
Life is your teacher.
Not some Jesus, Buddha, Osho or whatever or whomever is cast in the mould of saviour and light.
You don’t hold it against people, though, the fact that they worship people who name themselves gods.
Since then, like yesterday, you’ve made up your mind about several things.
The Kaftan One, she encourages you, on all sorts of levels.
You get out your notebook and write down things.
What’s more, she and you know what it means to be out, as lesbians for one, since 19 voetsek.
You know what it means to try and be authentic. Real.
You’ve lived open lives. She is a one-breasted cancer survivor, for instance.
She doesn’t do falsies, like Angelina Jolie does. Not even naked on the beach.
No, you don’t do things like that, not if you’ve been in the women’s movement, since the 1970s!
And in bed for eight years with yuppie flu.
Today, her days start at 2pm.
It’s no secret, no shame.
You, on the other hand, have suffered severe and debilitating depression; you have burnt out and cracked up several times.
Each time you have come back lighter, with a newer more beautifully translucent skin.
Each time — and with therapy of course, loads of it — you’ve become honed to better handle this exquisite paradox, this thing we call life.
Living is not easy, no matter what the song says, not even if it is summer time.
The Black Dog bites. Hard. Anywhere, anytime.
Do not underestimate the power of this vicious and indiscriminate beast.
Manage it; keep it at bay. Admit, and submit.
It’s essential to do this, for if you do not confront his mental illness it will, as sure as the dawn breaks and the sun sets, it will manage you; it will bully you.
Jesus many not want Kurt Cobain for a Sunbeam, but the Black Dog sure as hell wants you for a rag doll. It wants you in its jaws, this monster, so it can shake you, break you, bring you down.
It makes breakfast of the brittle and eats the anxious for lunch.
For supper, it takes your soul.
Beware of the Black Dog. It wants to finish you off.
It mauls you even as you whimper, cower under your pillow.
It feeds on the fact that you’re fraught and afraid, terrified in your psychological torment.
You shrink from the beauty of life. You see horror, hostility. It’s everywhere.
You retreat into a cave. Nobody can reach you.
You hide behind booze, drugs, maybe even religion, whatever.
You do everything to not have to admit it. You are sick.
Depression destroys a person. It’s destructive too for those around them.
Your family, and friends, your ex-lovers, shame, they suffered too, for you could not feel love, no, not at all.
You were always blaming someone else! Ruining lovely things.
But that’s depression, it’s not you.
You take a pill because the illness is a critical matter: it is a matter of life and death.
Admitting you were not coping, and getting a diagnosis, and treatment, they were the first steps on your road to wellness; to an emotional equanimity, to a peace within.
It’s hard work getting better. But you have no regrets.
You know that Denial is not only a river in Africa.
You know that sometimes it takes years to climb out from Denial’s murky waters; to free yourself from its dangerous, damning depths.
If you stay there, you drown. As sure as nuts.