Snapshots From An Island

We step out of the plane, blinking and stretching in the bright light and sudden blast of heat, and make our careful way down the set of metal steps that have just been driven up.

The sea and the rocks

A strip of azure sea stretches along one side of the runway, just a few metres away, while ahead of us the sun-bleached landscape reaches up from the other side of the tarmac and runs off towards the distant mountains. The first breath of this air is always warm and thick, rich with aromatic oils drawn by the sun from the wild herbs that abound, although this time it seems fainter, hopefully just the effect of a different season rather than any erosion of habitat. I have never known another destination where the sweet scent of the landscape is the first to greet you, rather than industrial fumes.

Palm tree
Here we are, landing on this island, as familiar to us as an old family friend. My parents first came here before we were born, the start of a long love affair that has stayed with us all through the years. As a family, and then in ones and twos and threes, between us we have continued to visit most years: usually arriving with the wildflowers of spring, or the rich harvests of autumn when the sea is still warm from the long summer past.

Palm leaves against blue sky

Different places, different times, exploring the coastlines and the mountains in under-furnished hire cars (…surely there are supposed to be more cylinders in the engine block where those gaps are, no? No wonder it is struggling so… Is that smell the clutch? Ah … The tarmac ran out a few miles ago and I’m not sure the wheels will take much more of these rocks…). Visiting old favourites and discovering new delights, this island is a thread that runs through my life.

Fishing nets on the quay

Back again, then, in a new configuration. Sometimes I catch a memory-glimpse of Dad floating in the sea beside me, or doing shark impressions in the calmer waters of a pool as I swim lengths. We will be back here again some day to bring him on his final journey, to send him off on the warm breeze across the dark mountains and over these blue blue seas; to honour his final request, and leave him here at last in the place that he loved the best. But we are not ready for that; this is just a visit, banishing ghosts and letting the stress roll off our shoulders and hearts and out across the salt water to the distant horizon, where white sails come and go.Sparkling blue sea and skies
A few snapshots then: the scent of Frangipani and Oleander blossom floating on the gentle night breeze; the sound of surf rolling and falling at the shoreline; a head full of salt-licked hair; condensation on a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice;a crescendo of cicadas in the canopy of a mulberry tree; bougainvillea, bottlebrush and silk trees, as tall as houses, resplendent against cerulean skies…

Bougainvillea against whitewashed walls and blue skies

… savouring local food and wine; licking sticky fingers, and wiping the traces of fragrant sauce from the plate with the last piece of bread; passing pick-up trucks loaded with pyramids of oranges; trees full of green figs or olives; clusters of kittens tumbling in the dust; a few new words or phrases added to the hazily remembered vocabulary that begins to flow again in bits and pieces; slipping down to the beach at 5 a.m. in the pre-dawn to watch the sunrise; long early morning walks up around the headlands before the heat of the day presses down.

Sunrise over the sea
I have been away; it has been quite delicious. Summer has arrived and the garden has rioted while I’ve been gone, there is much to catch up on, both in the garden and back at my desk. Normal service should be resumed shortly.


18 thoughts on “Snapshots From An Island

  1. Mmm, that looks gorgeous. Where is it? I spent a lot of childhood holidays in the Med and there is something about the warmth there that makes smells linger. I always remember the smell of the pine forests in particular. It so rarely happens here, although the front garden last night smelt of honeysuckle and carnations. Hope you feel suitably relaxed and refreshed after your holiday. 🙂

    • We were indeed in the Med, on the boundary between the Aegean Sea and the Libyan Sea. The subdivision of seas is quite intricate!
      It was a lovely break, thank you, though straight back to reality with a bump on my return.

  2. Very jealous, Sara. And gorgeous photos. All of them. I’m off to Croatia soon – and will be doing much the same to while away the hours. Welcome back. Now. Holiday over. Get gardening!! Dave

  3. glad you found some sun and time to relax Sara, even with the mixed memories, the photos all look wonderful,
    aromas are real memory trigers I find, this week I was working near the lodge pole pines and immediately transported to backpacking and camping in Canada,
    hope there is a cushion to easy your bumpy return, Frances x

  4. Lovely writing Sara. I can understand why that the place has a special significance for you. Don’t tell people exactly where it is – you must keep it special!

    • Thanks Mark. Ah, it will always be special, and not particularly secret. Like many places in the sun, there are small pockets that the tourists ransack, but away from the herds a rich wealth of history, geology, botany and character abounds…

  5. Wondered where you were Sara but reading the above has answered that question 🙂 Sounds the perfect place for healing. Hope that you have managed to fit in some gardening this weekend and that going back to work is not too much of a shock to the system.

    • We did manage to spend quite a bit of this weekend in the garden catching up, which was good. Back at work just a few hours after landing, so it was a bit of a shock to the system earlier in the week.

  6. And we’re off to Yorkshire….probably will be more grey than blue – ha ha! Oh well, I was born with webbed feet and rainproof skin I think. Looks like a beautiful break away. Bethx

    • Ah the greens and greys of Yorkshire are just as lovely, look forward to reading about trips to Betty’s and new stashes of mill fabrics discovered… Have a lovely break, and hope the sun shines for you. S x

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