One never knows when one is safe in life. I’m sitting in my lounge, with the aircon on, while an inferno builds around me. Outside the temperature is 42+ C, inside, a comfortable 26C. But then it all depends on the electric company, doesn’t it? Once they decide it’s safer to cut my power, I’ll be immersed into the heat. Once the wind turns, from the east to the west, I’ll sit in the middle of the flames burning the pine tree covered hills around me.
Where would I go? Into the pool, I’m thinking, but would I have to stay underwater while the inferno takes me hostage? For how long? Will I survive? Who knows?
This is the fourth day of the fire. No, it’s not a bush fire. I know this for certain. I’ve lived here for the last 11 years, and never seen anything like this. Usually, the fires are local, and firefighters put them out in a few hours. This is different, deliberate, mean and calculated. Set ablaze in various spots. Mankind is the cruellest creature on the planet.
The villages are left on their own. Their livestock, greenhouses, homes, and fields at the mercy of the flames. There is no state, authority to protect them. The president visits the disaster sites in a convoy of hundreds of cars and throws tea bags out of the window. Not flowers, not water, but teabags…
Have I come here to die in an Inferno? I do not know. I miss my hometown, but I also got accustomed to this place which has given me hope. A fake hope, perhaps. Hope is a wish that keeps us going.
At dusk, the scenery resembles an apocalypse, a blood red sky, smell of burning, and the death of the forest. Hot winds blow ash and burnt pine needles everywhere.
In daytime, driving through the once thick woodland, the ghosts of pine trees lament their lost glory. No more the rich green against the azure sky. Only carcasses in brown, dead and dying, weeping. I weep for them, and all the creatures who have lost their homes and perished. It seems it takes 50-60 years for a forest to recover its ecosystem. The flora and the fauna that provide livelihood to the locals. I won’t be around then, but I have seen the best. No one can burn my memories.
So, I wait for fate to turn its wheels. As far as my view and binoculars allow, I watch the forest day and night, to spot intruders with heinous motives. Will the wind change, the power cut, or will I be saved, redeemed, and perhaps understand what I’ve come to learn in this life.
Sorry I have been away for a while. It wasn’t intentional. I meant to post a story before I left on holiday, but failed to do so while trying to get organized for the trip. So, here’s a true story about our adventures, meeting with fellow writers at various locations, and how this journey evolved.
David J. Meyers, from Melbourne, Australia, and I, first met at the now defunct Harper Collins writer’s website, Authonomy, in 2013. I had joined Authonomy back in 2012 and posted my manuscript The Child of Heaven which David read and edited while I read many of his books, including The Maia Calendar, Lost in Authonomy, The Gargoyle Chronicles, and To See the Sun. This was before David established himself as an historical fiction writer and his genre was more fantasy orientated. Meanwhile, that year I also met the American author, Joanne J. Kendrick who wrote paranormal fantasy and romance. I read her books, Music of Souls and Chance Inheritance, and her sequel to Music, Eternity’s Opus.
The beginning of David’s Maia Calendar takes place at the Sultanahmet Square, the Hippodrome, in the old town of Istanbul. In the summer of 2013, David and Michelle decided to visit Istanbul. At that time, I was no longer living in Istanbul, my hometown, but in Marmaris, on the Southern Aegean coast. So, I made sure I was in Istanbul during their short stay and the virtual friendship became real when I met David and his lovely wife, Michelle, in person, at their hotel in the Sultanahmet area and we had lunch at the historical Sultanahmet Köftecisi.
Joanne had a life change a couple of years ago, and was working and living on her own. She wanted to travel to places she had never been, and had never flown across the Atlantic. I invited her to stay with me in Marmaris, and said we can also go to the Greek islands from here. Last year it didn’t happen, for one reason or another. This year in early January, Joanne asked if we could plan a trip together from Turkey to Greece. This coincided with the time I was diagnosed with hernia in my lower back and was having treatments. I thought, why not, life is too short, and perhaps, I might not be able to do this in the future. Who knows? Not that I can afford to pay anything in Euros with the state of the Turkish economy these days, but what’s money for if you can’t enjoy it in good health. I said, “Let’s do it,” and we began to plan our journey.
Meanwhile, David and Michelle were celebrating their 25th year together and he wanted to do something special for her. Once David heard our plans, he discussed it with Michelle and they decided to fly to Santorini for a romantic break before meeting us in Athens on the 21st of May. For four nights and three days we stayed in a flat with 3 bedrooms and bathrooms, in the Plaka district, which Joanne found from Airbnb.
It was the first time David, Michelle and I met Joanne in person. She turned out to be exactly as I imagined her. Then, thinking perhaps my Facebook friend, the lovely American painter and writer, Pamela Jane Rogers, who has lived in Poros for the last 30 years, could join us for lunch during our stay, I messaged her, and she kindly agreed. So we all met for lunch in Athens, 4 writers, two from the US, one from Oz, and one from Turkey, together with Michelle Meyers and Francis Broun, a professor of History of Art from Princeton, and Pamela’s husband.
David was the tour leader in Athens as we covered all the historical sites, from Hadrians’s Library, The Athenian Agora, Roman Agora, The Temple of The Winds, The Acropolis, The Temple of the Olympian Zeus, to the Acropolis Museum. Although it was a challenging task for my back, I did manage to climb to the Acropolis, with help from my friends, while trying to cope with the treacherous spiral Greek steps and stairs, and hills that were an inescapable feature of our daily excursions.
Joanne and I parted with David and Michelle on the 25th of May. They left for Australia as we boarded a propeller plane to Kefalonia from Athens. We took a ferry to Ithaca, Penelope’s Island, where we stayed with a very good friend of mine. Our week in Ithaca was pure serenity as we marvelled at the unspoiled nature and exquisite beauty of Ulysses’ Kingdom. A population of 2000 and full of Greeks born is Oz with Aussie accents, who have returned home to claim their heritage from their ancestors. It seems back in the early 50’s there was a devastating earthquake in the Peloponnese Islands and most of the inhabitants of Kefalonia, Ithaca and other islands immigrated to Australia, South Africa, the UK, and the US to begin new lives.
After our magical stay in Ithaca, we flew to Rhodes via Kefalonia and Athens on the 2nd of June. Another 4 days of explorations on the lovely island and a ferry ride to Marmaris on the 6th of June brought me back home with Joanne. Jo stayed with me for 5 nights and 4 days and had a brief tour of Marmaris and the surrounding villages. When she left Marmaris and flew back to the US via Dalaman and Istanbul, on the 11th of June, we had been together for 21 days.
It was definitely a trip to remember, with great company and wonderful memories. I hope we’ll have the chance get together again, in the near future.
And there’s a story brewing, in my head. It starts with, “Penelope sat on the pebble beach in Ithaca and combed her hair …” and I don’t know where she’ll take me …
“Soghut, a pretty seaside village on the eastern coast of the Southern Aegean, beguiles newcomers with its stunning views of the islands in the cove, and the Greek island of Symi in the background.” 1
Söğüt (Soghut), a sleepy fishing village on the shores of the Southern Aegean is one of my favourite places in the greater Marmaris area. The scenic route to get there from Marmaris is well worth the ride, as the flora slowly changes from pine forests to shrubs, olive groves, and almond trees.
“A well-kept secret, with exquisite villas on the hills, it had been recently featured in Exclusive Escapes. The article gushed: the unspoilt beauty of its shoreline boasts of a small restaurant called The Octopus Man, renowned internationally for Ali’s unique recipe.” 2
It is the setting of a story called Selma of Soghut. An inhabitant of the village I came across on one of my visits became my inspiration for Selma. I don’t have a picture of her and I’d like to keep her identity secret because the story is a figment of my imagination.
“I met Selma during a walk on the pebble beach after my first scrumptious grilled octopus lunch at Ali’s. An old woman with striking blue eyes, a small, upturned nose and delicate features on her weathered face. In a printed dress that swayed with the warm breeze and a white scarf wrapped around her frizzy, grey locks, she greeted me with a toothy smile.“
“Hello, are you visiting?” 3
Söğüt is still innocent, laid-back, and peaceful. It’s one of the few places in the area where mass tourism hasn’t taken its toll. There are only a handful of small hotels, fish restaurants, and modest village shops.
I hope it will continue to preserve its unique charm and remain as a tranquil spot for the yachters and visitors who come by land to enjoy its natural beauty and friendly inhabitants.
123- Excerpt from Selma of Soghut, Ripples on the Pond
Cedar Island, Cedrae Island, Sedir Adası, Marmaris, Muğla, Turkey
The features of the sand is that each grain is equally 1 mm in diameter, burns when thrown in fire, multiples by itself in soda water, and shows spontaneous proliferation when you look at it under the magnifying glass. Indeed, the only other region of the world where this sand can be found is in the Red Sea.
The sands of Cleopatra’s Beach
glitter like gold
under the rays of the amber sun
Each grain, a perfect sphere,
Antony shipped all the way from
Egypt to Cedar Island in the Aegean
for their honeymoon
The specks of her Tiger’s Eye gaze,
reflecting the shimmer,
she beams and hints her approval
Yellow mimosa buds peeking between
the delicate leaves of the acacia trees on the hills
recall the scene under the cerulean sky,
and how she listened to the songs
of the flaxen wheat right before harvest,
coming from the mainland.
She strokes his sun-streaked hair and
gazes into his honey-coloured eyes.
A kiss, a promise of eternity falls into the sea
The golden moon rising behind the hills,
beholds the view and vows,
giving life to the sand forever,
to carry their story into the future.