Just Let Go

8 Sep

I stood at the edge of the scraggly rock, the soles of my feet burning more fervently with every new attempt to stay upright as the sharp, pointy surface took every opportunity to jut into my skin and make me fall over.  “Just jump!”  “Dive in, it’s easy!”  “Just go in head first, or even a regular cannonball will do it.”  “You won’t hit a rock, don’t worry.”  These words of encouragement from the darkness ahead flooded in one ear and immediately out the other as I tried to convince myself I would not, in fact, be jumping to my death.  Look down.  Look out.  Look down.  Look out.  Hmmmmm.  Oh what the Hell?  JUMP

Admittedly I am not scared of heights.  Really.  I had absolutely no qualms about throwing my body out of a helicopter over the Swiss Alps.  And I’d do it again (just amongst new scenery; Swiss Alps is so Winter ’07).  But there’s something about standing in the dark on a small rock overlooking a black body of water that’s slightly terrifying.  How deep is it?  It there a rock just waiting for my head to crash up against it?  It wasn’t that the jump itself was high.  It wasn’t.  But once I pushed my toes off that edge, I had no control.  Even the reassuring words of Chris, my fellow teaching fellow, and Warren, my 60-something New Zealand ex-pat of a boss, coming from the water’s safety wasn’t enough to prove that I wouldn’t land in a different, and much more fatal, territory.  And the scraggly surface of rock on which I stood took away any hope of leverage, making it more likely I would fall in than jump in gracefully.

And thus began my first night on the island of Aegina.  Just a short ferry ride from Athens, and yet a world away.  I did jump in by the way, and have the 3 working limbs to prove it (kidding).  The Aegean Sea has a high salt content, and all one must do is lay back on the water to enjoy the stars above.  Everything else goes away.  The moonlight washes away any stress or worry, the stars shimmer among the black surrounding you, and small ships and fishing boats glide in the distance toward the lighthouse on the coast.  It’s wonderful.  If you’re ever searching to discover what happiness in it’s purest and simplest form is, it is exactly this moment.  And once you realize that, and say it aloud (“I’m happy”) it’s hard, no, impossible, to hold back a smile.

I could bore you with every detail of my delightful weekend of sun, food, and dogs (to be exact, there were 20 of them, all owned, groomed, and trained by one woman, who had us over her house for a delicious three course dinner after the star-gazing), but I’ll just hit the high points.  Clearly all the food was good.  One of my favorite meals is mini chips ahoy cookies in a bowl with milk, so I don’t think I’m capable of thinking all of this fresh, local, homemade cuisine is anything less than divine.  High point?  I ate a whole fish.  As in put the entire thing, head to toe, eyes included, in my mouth and chewed.  Once it’s in your mouth, it doesn’t taste like your eating a live fish anymore, but getting yourself to throw the whole damned thing into your mouth is quite another story.  It was a small fish, and it was coated in a batter.  I tried not to look directly into that little minnow’s eyes as I held it up to my face by it’s tail.  It was good; very good actually.  But I could only eat one.  The process of convincing yourself to chomp down on a whole fish was hard for me to swallow.

High point #2?  Warren has lived on this island for quite some time now, and knows all the little nooks and crannies for swimming, eating, and watching a sunset.  And so that’s what we did.  We watched the sunset.  We watched as the sun slowly fell and lit up the sky, turning it shades of orange, pink, and purple (magic hour as my brother would call it, though my camera couldn’t capture it quite the way his could have).  We watched as it tucked itself in beyond the horizon, and watched as the sky faded into black, illuminating the stars and the lights of the island.  We sat in our little beach chairs for what seemed like an eternity, in silence, just looking out, taking it in, and enjoying the present.  People don’t do that enough.  Enjoy the present.  We constantly plan the future, even if we don’t mean to.  I know I do it.  But there’s something about just letting go and taking it all in, letting your thoughts stream in and out, that’s so refreshing.  It wasn’t until we were fully draped in the blackness of night that we slowly picked ourselves up and moved on.  That’s the other thing about enjoying the present.  If you take it all in, and enjoy it thoroughly, there’s no need to hold on, and you let it go as easily as you came upon it.

Last high point: Pistachio nuts.  The island is famous for their pistachio nuts, and I am now the proud owner of two large bags of them, one bag salted, the other regular.  If I’m ever feeling stressed or just need to relax, I’ll close my eyes, think back to that sunset and those stars, and grab a handful of nuts.  I couldn’t imagine a better way to unwind.  Well, maybe with a glass of wine, but we’ll play that one by ear.

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