I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth.-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Mona's Musings

September 17th, 2010

Greece

“The figure of that first ancestor, invested by family tradition with a dim and dusky grandeur, was present to my boyish imagination as far back as I can remember. It still haunts me, and induces a sort of home-feeling with the past…” Nathanial Hawthorne

A Greek seafarer with thick, coarse hands that could pull a rope against the wind and thick, coarse hair that barely ruffled in it, my great-great grandfather left the usual routes on the Mediterranean and Black Seas to ply the waters of America’s Pacific Northwest. It is there I grew up and it is there I found his grave many years ago. I have had a strange relationship with this man all my life, to the point of imagining myself a mariner and surrounding myself with little ships and lighthouses and oil paintings of the sea. My hands are too tiny to be his, but I know I have his hair, his straight nose, his large ears and his last name. All the Western European blood that maternal lines could introduce have not erased these visible remnants of my Greek heritage. It fills me with a sense of glee to observe those traits in the populace of Athens: nearly every face could be one of those I’ve loved in the old, brown photos of uncles and grandfathers.

“The spell survives, and just as powerfully as if the natal spot were an earthly paradise.” Nathanial Hawthorne

Yesterday, I ensconced myself in a private beach bungalow at the southern tip of this island. Those who know the intensity of my life over the past several weeks will not begrudge me the few hours I spent staring into sea. Though the waves of royal blue and turquoise (so crystal clear I could watch schools of black fish meandering many feet beneath the surface) lapped the rocks with a soothing predictability, every so often my trance was shattered by a spray that left me soaked.

Where am I? Is it possible?

Dale came to fetch me for lunch. The surreal continued as we shared a feast of traditional dishes with his local work associates, again leaving me with a strange sense that I was somehow related to these people. They taught me a bit of twentieth century Greek history and explained their culture: ‘We eat dinner at 9 or 10 o’clock,’ they said, referring to the busy outdoor cafes’ and sense of community that takes over the city after the sun goes down, ‘with weather like this, why not?’ The climate and glorious setting also explain the tradition of early retirement, they told me with grins. I wasn’t sure if they were pulling my leg, but agreed it was understandable. ‘Ah yes,’ they sighed with a boast, leaning back in their chairs on the sun-drenched veranda: ‘Greece is a blessed place…with stupid politicians.’ I relaxed into my chair too: an American could appreciate that.

Later, when Dale had shed his beautiful blue suit for swim trunks and a white t-shirt, we drank our orange juice and dozed during lulls in the conversation while the tide came in and the sun went down. I tried to describe the bewitching connection I feel to this place but I’m afraid that even to my husband I came across quixotic. Maybe I am, (well, actually I know I am) but there is something here…something of heaven and destiny lining up the planets, sealing a loop-hole of personal history: my history and my grandfather’s. After today we share more than a surname, more than curly hair, more than a love of ships and sails…

NOW we share GREECE.

Lots more photos on album “Greece Day One” at Mona’s Musings on Facebook!

Hint of Romance

Get to know something about your spouse’s family history and adopt it for your own. Your sense of unity will only be strengthened.

What did you think of this musing?

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Discussion

  1. Bri Z. says:

    Oh momsie, no one could begrudge you your time spent soaking in the ocean. What a wonderful picture you painted. I feel like I experienced it with you; like I was there: lying on the beach in the sun next to you and dad or watching these thoughts run across your face while we sat at a 10 ‘oclock dinner (how on earth to they wait that long?). I know you will give your full heart into experiencing and enjoying every second on your trip. We love you!!

  2. jane says:

    Mona, Very well written. I believe I know how you feel going to Greece and the connection. I had a very similar experience going back to Norway where my great grandparents came from. It is hard to explain, but it does give new understanding to one’s life. Must go for noe, will look forward to more of your stories.

  3. Sara Lyn says:

    I’m so glad you could watch the ocean like that. What a beautiful experience it sounds like. I have been having fun getting to know Morgan’s ancestry and he has been an active participant in mine. :) (Third generation girl on my mom’s side to bring a Western boy back to the beautiful East.) :) Morgan and I are blessed to share similar background, but I like the idea of learning more about his family history and adopting it into our own. I think that will be even more of a unifier.

  4. Heidi says:

    It sounds amazing! I wonder if I will feel that way if I am ever able to visit China. I hope so. Though I doubt the weather will be anything as lovely as you’ve described.

  5. Ellenor Abeln says:

    My darlings:
    I thought this musing was wonderful. You explain descriptions so well. There was one thing your Grandfather George was good at. He used to tell us some interesting things about Greece. I wish I had them written down.
    I believe he was never in Greece so he must have done a lot of study on it. He sure told some nice things including the weather. Watching the ocean, and traveling through
    George loved playing the piano and was very good at it. He loved the Straus waltzes, and other great music of the other writers. He never missed a note after he learned the music. He was great. Mona you are marvelous. Love you, Ellenor

  6. Jodi says:

    How beautiful! Greece is on my list of places to visit. I have no connection with it, but I have heard how beautiful it is. So glad that you are were able to spend some time relaxing. Let me know when you happen to be our part of the world.

  7. Lilia H says:

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful moments and experiences with all of us. I’m glad you have had such an opportunity to connect with the past in such a way, I’m sure your grandfather is happy to see you there too.

    Can’t wait for your next stop! I do love to travel but for now we have to stay close to home so I’ll count on you to bring some of that fun and excitment as you go to so many places.

  8. Cindy Larsen says:

    I felt as I was reading your experience like I was right there with you…Just beautiful~ Thank you~

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