Greece… et ailleurs
This is the third week without running. I miss it. Whatever ruptured, inflamed, broke, fissured, fractured, disjointed, cracked… (whatever it was — I am not fond of seeing doctors) looks like it is about to get better. I took my running shoes with me to Greece for the weekend we spent there but never felt good enough to put them on and go exploring. I fantasized about coursing along the shore, taking in the salty smell of the air and the chilling wind. I thought about the flowering almond trees and about the waves of green grass — a view which I hardly ever experienced in this country. I confess, I have completely forgotten about the stray dogs fiercely defending their vagrancy, about the paths coming to an abrupt end in the middle of nowhere, and about the cars dashing on the small streets, fleetingly reminding those around how well Greek drivers can handle their vehicles.
Often I would try to imagine how would it be like to be in Greece in the winter, without the torpid heat. I can never get farther than a few black and white scenes from Zorba (how pathetically stereotypical, I know) or Eternity and a day — those mountain scenes, foggy and cold. I indulged in creating languorous images of warm indoors, a fire monologuing on the futility of life, cuddling up in a room overlooking the sea, bursting with inspiration, churning one page after another, squeezing in all the holiness the gods raffishly left behind.
Well, it’s damn cold in winter. Those houses are not meant to keep the heat inside. The rain pours down as mercilessly as it does here, the wind slashes your cheeks as thoroughly as back home. I concluded that I should do without. For Rachel Kushner it was a ferry ride (“My aspiration to spend time at sea as requisite literary training died long ago, as a teenager, on a white-knuckled ferry ride to Elba during a torrential rainstorm.”). As for myself… I gave up (too quickly, perhaps) that long weekend in February, walking barefoot on icy marble floors, shoving my hands in the jeans pockets when out for cold walks along the beach, trying not to step on dog shit and trying not to trip over protruding pieces of metal encased in masses of concrete.
Murakami had ran a marathon from Athens to, well… Marathon, following the ancient route in reverse. I drove a couple of times along that road and I think I would still not be able to do it. OK, he was escorted by a whole crew, he had a car driving by his side the whole time, protecting him from the maddening traffic and whatever dangerous animals, people or cars were lurking in the heat. It was not the happiest run in his life, it was definitely one of his hottest (he ran in a morning in July), and it was one where he counted the highest number of flattened, scorched remains of dogs, cats and other roadkill paving the street.
Greece! Why do I like spending my summers there? Why do I engage in endless discussions with our Greek friends about how to change this country, about how to make it prosper, about how to get its people to see it for what it is, to find its place in the world today and stop dwelling in a past that happened hundreds or thousands of years ago?
Greece is like the man on the wire now: holding its balance while walking between the two World Trade towers. Down on the street people stare in disbelief. Should they rush away in case the moving speck will come down with a silent thud? Should they stay and watch the show (after all, how often would you have the chance to see something like this)? While Pettit seems to be stepping on very thin air so high up, nobody knows how it will go on. Not even him. Talking about creative ambiguity!
Help, Tennyson! You’re my only hope!
“Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.”
Originally published at wpgf.wordpress.com on March 9, 2015.