The Aegean is an astonishing blue turquoise. I have never seen anything like it on the coastline of New England where I grew up. It even sounds different. The waves caress the shore with the tenderness of a lover. I come here every day with my notebook, sit on a blanket and write. Occasionally a gust of wind blows sand in my notebook and ruffles the pages. I am writing the story of my younger days in Boston and Montreal, when I faced the first major crucible of my life: My decision to leave the US rather than become another American infantry soldier in Vietnam. A casuality of the war. Because I was certain that if I joined the battle in Vietnam I would not return home alive. It was just something I knew in my gut. But more than that it was a matter of conscience, and here on the island of Naxos I am more convinced than ever that, as Socrates supposedly said, of the 36 ways of avoiding disaster, flight is best. I fled to Montreal, which for me and many other young American draftees, was our city of sanctuary.
As I said I come to this quiet beach every morning to write. I found this little inlet protected by a bluff by chance when Sandra and I were exploring the area during our first week on the island. It is peaceful here and the view is inspiring.
My time here is the best part of the day, the time of my freedom. It has restored my equilibrium and strengthened my spirit, given me profound sense of inner peace. Being away from the small cottage we have rented for a while is good for my marriage too. It gives my wife time to herself. I believe my wife writes her letters to her friends and family while I am writing my book. She is a great letter writer. Being English she writes her letters with a sense of history and a commitment to the greatness and eternity of the written word. I have never received a letter from her, but I’ve read one or two that she wrote to her sister before she sealed the envelope and they are truly works of art in their own way. I believe she does the housecleaning as well during my absence. I have never actually seen her doing it, somehow it seems beneath her, she is such a lady, but when I come home the house is sparkling and she is sitting comfortably by the window reading a book. I don’t know how she keeps our domestic affairs humming along so smoothly without showing any signs of strain. She is a marvel and mystery. She is also beautiful to look at and a joy in bed. But she’s not perfect. For one thing she’s a terrible cook, which she herself is the first to admit. “We British are not born to cook,” she’s said on many occasions to our guests. “Fortunately, I am happily married to an Italian American who loves good food and knows how to make it,” is her standard comment on the subject.
We go to the market together in the late morning and I prepare lunch when we return to the cottage. After our meal, usually fish or goat cheese, bread and olives with a salad and some local wine, we take a siesta. In the afternoon we take a long walk and in the evenings, after a light supper, we explore the city of Naxos or the harbor and stop at our favorite café. It’s a good life for us here in Greece.
On some days a fishing boat comes close to shore, just a man and his son casting nets and trying, no doubt, to catch enough fish to feed his family and perhaps sell in the market. He has never come ashore but we have become familiar sights to one another and we throw each other a wave as a way of saying “I see you there” or “The blessings of heaven upon you and may you catch all the fish your heart desires.” He casts for fish and I cast into the depths of my mind for memories, so I imagine he is blessing me and wishing me good fortune in my casting.
My book is a book of memories. Like all serious writers I am always writing the story of my life. I am continuously casting into the past, sifting through the incidents and events and searching for the core of my true identity and trying to find the truth of the life I lived before coming to Naxos. Ah, but the truth is as elusive as a magical fish that swims the depths of the ocean. And I, like the fisherman in the Arabian Nights, am hoping to haul up in my net of literary art, my net of words, the earthen jar containing the Jinni that will do my bidding and answer the riddle of who I was then.
So, dear reader, let us begin the search together. If I have done my job well, you will perhaps find something of yourself in my story . . .
E-book will be available on June 11th or sooner. Print book will be published in July with CreateSpace.