Monday, December 15, 2008

From Our Window in Nafplion...


We look out over the tile rooftops of the Old Town, past the nearest square's church bell tower to some of the palms along the waterfront, out to the bay and the mountains beyond it. To the NE spans the newer red roofs of Nafplion's new town apartment buildings. Directly East of us is the majestic cliffside with steps and arches that lead up to Palamidi, the Venetian fortress at the top which towers over us. Our living room roof is slanted and when they built this top floor apartment, someone was smart enough to stack the windows (which run 3/4 of the living room in each of the aforementioned directions) with increasingly larger angled windows. Which means that from most spaces in the living room, one can sit and enjoy the view of the castle above us, protective and quiet during the day, magnificently on show and displayed in its fully-lit regalia at night.

Guide books say there are 999 steps to the castle (though I've never bothered to count). We paid a cab driver 5 euros once to drop us at the top so that after our tour, we could walk the steps down and then the block to our door.

Directly behind us and out the East bedroom window is the rock wall of Akronafplia, a wall so old there are still remnants of Byzantine stone to be seen. This ancient wall once connected to Palamidi (so it's said) and the bottom sits just about eye level with our windows, the natural rocky hillside jutting out from below it. The bottom two flats of our building lay directly against the natural rock while the top two floors sit out one house-layer away from it. So from our windows, we look out on both the rocky hill terrain and the stone-built wall as well as our neighbor's yards. Unfortunately their patio gardens hold very little charm, mostly decorated with filthy white, stacked, plastic chairs and yellow shirts left hanging in the rain, old ladders, rusting tools and piles of rubble with broken shards of pottery. But along with the view of the castle and its walls on this side, these yards sprout luscious lemon and orange trees, plump fruit dotting the branches like Christmas tree ornaments.

Beyond the new town and across the bay, bald, gray mountains light up in December's dappled sunlight. The landscape calls to me in Greece. Visions of its ancient people, centuries past, seem to shout out but in a whisper; from beneath the orange trees, within the hillsides; from the leaves sprouting out from the twisty, gnarled old olive trunks and somewhere within the earth. I feel their lives as if their thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears and daily emotions are still embedded in the soil and seem to escape like wispy, smoky mirages each time I wonder about them and give them the slightest voice.

The people of today, the ones who have trashed this enduring landscape, their lives feel like noise to me. But the people of the past, the energy of their lives long since dispersed, sing to me like a distant aria. They move something in my heart like opera music to its fans.

What is it about them? Is it because they have come and gone and now have the knowledge of what's beyond transition? That event, time, place that we still can only wonder about and are (pardon the pun) so deathly afraid of?

They are the forgotten ones and as I look out over the land, I work to remember. I see them traversing the hillsides in homespun clothing. I see their fires, taste their bread, smell their sweat. I envision the hustle of their lives, struggling for survival against this harsh beauty, and the timeless quiet and stillness of their deaths.

At nearby ancient archaeological sites, I lay my hands on the pocked stone, searching for the tremors of energy of lives so long gone; searching for a deeper connection to their world, a time warp.

From our window, I have a view of the bustling present and a whispering portal to the past.

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