I am trying to recognize the sweet spots in life while they are happening, to grab a hold of them, and to file them very deliberately in my brain. We had one of these recently; a single, perfect day on Hydra Island with all our kids. Fortunately, we realized how great the day was right then and there.
After tossing across a stormy sea, we arrived on Hydra a bit queasy and just as the weather turned, the sun came out, and the winds died down. The proprietor of our inn suggested we walk around the tip of the island past the harbor – “Once you get to the harbor, just keep going left. The view is spectacular. And it’s the best sunset.” So we walked to the harbor with no agenda other than to turn left and keep walking.
Pat grabbed his tripod in expectation of some great sunset shots. Since it was still early afternoon, we didn’t need to rush. Hydra is a pedestrian island – or more specifically a donkey and pedestrian island. And it is a Greek island. In other words, it is a place with no concept of speed. A sign showed the path connecting five villages with no notation of the distance.
It wasn’t far to the first village, yet we passed no tourists at all. The path, which previously hugged the sea, cut inland slightly – past stone houses, sparse hillsides and brilliantly colored bushes of flowers that ranged from white through pink to red and onto purple. It reminded me of the sample paint card we used to select Taylor’s bedroom colors when she was a little girl. Just stunning even though it was late October.
Pat wanted to set up at the old harbor with an interesting foreground of sailboats and fishing vessels, some which appeared barely sea worthy. I pushed to keep going. “If we don’t find something better, we’ll come back.” Reluctantly, he packed up and we pushed on.
As we left this town, the path started to snake up into the hills high above the sea. Eventually we came upon some broken down benches on a promontory and sat down. In the distance, I could see the path as it dropped down into the second village, wrapped around a peninsula and led to a tiny white chapel. “If we go there, we can’t make it back before sunset.” Pat warned. “Don’t worry, it looks fantastic. How can we go wrong? We can come back tomorrow and shoot the harbor if we must.”
The building on the remote peninsula turned out to be a restaurant with a large terrace pushed up against the water. As we crossed the patio to access the church, I noticed a man weaving a new seat into an aged chair. “That’s amazing.” Ryan whispered, “I would just throw that chair away and buy a new one.” But this man pulled the twine back and forth and seemed oblivious to the fact the if he just peeked up, he would see one of the most amazing views on earth.
I asked if we could buy a bottle of wine. “I’ll cook for you.” He answered. But none of us were hungry. “Did that mean we can not just drink? Or was he offering whatever we wanted?” But none of us were sure, so we decided to walk out to the stark, white church. Other than two donkeys nibbling in the dirt, we did not see another living thing.
When we returned to the terrace, I repeated my question, “Can we order just a bottle of wine?” “No problem,” he answered without looking up. Then he headed inside and returned with a carafe of wine and six cups. “Would you like some of my mother’s eggplant lasagna? It’s homemade from vegetables gathered from her garden.” “Perhaps in a little while,” I replied.
Eventually, we ordered two zucchini pie appetizers and a second carafe of wine. As we sat and talked, the sun sank deeper and deeper. Pat jockeyed about – moving his tripod in search of the best shot. And for the next two or three hours, the man worked on a new seat for a single chair.
Ryan mentioned what a perfect day this was. “It’s a sweet spot, Ryan,” I answered. “One of those days that are just so perfect it could be the best day of your life.” And we all agreed that we would not leave Hydra tomorrow – no matter how much it cost to change our plans.
Walking back to town, the man who served us passed us on the trail. “Do you think he stayed there just to entertain us?” I asked. But the question was lost, floating into the night as the wind blew off the water and we hustled along.
Backtracking through the first village, we peeked into a restaurant window and watched two men – older, brown and shirtless – setting up tables. Pat pulled out his camera to take a picture, and they noticed him and came outside to talk. By then, we were hungry, but he was sold out for that night. “It’s a big party. Tonight, I close for the next five months. All my friends are coming.” His friends must include every, single person in this tiny village. “Goodbye,” we yelled, “and good luck!”
Perched over the water where the trail leaves the town, I noticed an apartment with a small deck dangling over the water and a ‘for rent’ sign taped to the window. “Pat, take a picture of that. I want the phone number. Some October we are going to come back here and live.”
Maybe we will. Or maybe we shouldn’t trifle with perfection. A return will be doomed to disappoint us. Whatever we ultimately decide, it doesn’t matter. We have the memories of this one, perfect day. And I think all of us will cherish them, most likely forever.
Categories: Western Europe