Red Sky at Night
When the sun sets there is a spark of light, the exact moment that is the last moment, le rayon vert. But here, on this lazy isle, surrounded by lucid azure seas, the ray, the flash is not green, but red. Blossoming orange to violet, pink to red, sudden fractured glints of colored lights, blaze over and capture the eye. The watery horizon swallows the vermillion sun whole. The glowing orb gushed as in dipped through the brink that joins the sea and the sky. Red prevails, sparks then sustains, if only to pair with the age-old mariners phrase, ‘Red Sky at night, sailor’s delight’. Another day is ending, another step closer to the cease of our sojourn.
September is a month meant for those who linger, if only it could be endless. Not that traditional summer months aren’t deemed enjoyable, but this is a month of transition, when oppressive summer heat turns to warm caressing breeze. September renders nature beyond beauty. Ripened and renewed, like the sweet figs hanging on trees. The time of harvest, the fruits beacon, filling the groves and gardens full with grace, once more before seasons change. The next few weeks are precious, held in perfect standstill, perfect because it cannot last. September is fleeting.
A pledge of languid days has brought us to this land jutting from the Aegean seascape. We set up the room, rolled out a rattan rug and strung sea glass and boat tickets around wooden beams, picture reminders and escapes. Travel tokens set in motion and placed thoughtfully to provide a moment to reminisce, a cause for simple sanctuary. This rented room becomes a room for things we will bring home. With our added décor and selvedge memory, it is late summers home, providing a restful place in the afternoon, a handsome place surrounded by stone boundary walls.
I promised we would bask like Ancient Greeks and I would pick you figs and olives. Beyond the hand-hatched fences, gates wide open, the olive groves offered a stillness to do just this. Peering through the space between the expressive branches and the small, feathery flowers you could see clear to the Anatolian coast, although blurry in the distance, this is the space unknown. The land is atmospheric, perfumed with myth and cypress trees, an earthy oud fragrance permeates the air. Can you imagine the mythical Phoenician era when there was a lone olive tree, prospering upward and outward, high on the headlands, bearing a most ancient and perfect fruit? The centuries and conquests layer upon each other, remaining palpable in the winds that blow the branches and the seas and the spirits.
There were many calm early morning walks, guided by eyes half closed through yellow farm fields, miles and miles from the little towns. Bells chiming and the bleating of local goats would alert us, laughing us awake with their peculiar and playful habits. Their appearance always foreshadowed the breakfast of cool yogurt and thyme honey we had come to enjoy after strong coffee.
In the afternoons, before the evenings red sun and after lunch under bougainvillea, together we would ride the rolling hills on a white washed scooter. In hand, olive branches, to proffer as a ritual of our own peaceful presence to any sun-tired farmers we met along the route and we always met someone. These gatherings and the faces we’d come to know, in the cafes and on the dusty roads punctuated the weeks. We had become transient locals only because we kept a routine and were curious. Community was something I never wanted to escape, it saw the best in me. Somehow, by stringing all these days together, we created the illusion that they will not end, that they cannot end.
One afternoon we passed a humble house, painted in gray blue. The front door was anchored open by dove gray stones, piled up in size and shape. Softly, we stepped a bit closer to peer into the interior. It was dark and cool inside and we could feel the air change as we leaned in. There were touches of shadow and sunlight, intertwined and shifting just as the wind did. This light show led our eyes to a cream-colored embroidery sampler, the shadows making quiet gestures just as a stitcher would. The cloth rested on a woman’s lap, just as she rested, slightly dozing off, after lunch. We took in the pleasing view of her and snuck off, just so not to wake her nap or disturb the handwork of nature.
A few weeks after this one, we will be home and we will go outside and see October turn crimson. Mornings and afternoons will fill with inevitable obligations, inescapable, they grant us the luxury to follow the destinations in our hearts and allow them to materialize in front of our eyes in the coming months. We will spend early evenings sitting in our favorite cafes on the avenues, watching, red suns replaced by burgundy in our glasses.
We say farewell to seas, to the wine dark depths, adieu to the mysterious sailors, to vermillion heavens, goodbye to the summer of one hundred red suns. Wishfully, I think there will be next year, with all my intentions ringing true, promising to keep memories intact but the undeniable pull of indefinite destinations call. It can never be the same, because above all, nature always sways with change. The Aleppo pines will amend, their branches curving outward just a bit more, their scent lingering full of summers past, the fruit will inhabit different hues on their velvety skins and the sea will always be different, nuanced in indigo and cerulean tones, white foam will form marbled edges, unique with every tide but this September night sky will always set with red.
AM /// September 2013
A version of this story appeared on Nomad Chic in September 2013.