In about a week’s time we will pack some essentials into a couple of small rucksacks, take the ferry from Iráklio to Piraeás and set off on a discovery of a part of Greece that I have wanted to (re-)visit for a long time: Argolida, the name itself sounds like a symphony. It was in the summer of 1970 when my high school organized a trip to Greece that I first saw the open air theatre of Epidavros, the Lions’ Gate of Mycenae and the archaeological site in Tiryns. I have very little if any visual memories of those places after all those years. The asclepieion at Epidavros was the most celebrated healing center of the Classical world, the place where ill people went in the hope of being cured. Yvonne has a natural interest in such places.
When Tom sent me Henry Miller’s “The Colossus of Maroussi” as a gift, I devoured it from cover to cover in one night. It is set in the year before the outbreak of World War II. I haven’t read any other book that gives such a vivid account of the country and the people, especially the people. Since that first time, I have read The Colossus of Maroussi many times over and slowly a plan started to ripen in my head: I wanted to follow part of Miller’s path as he travels over Greece. To see if I could see what Miller saw, to feel if I could feel what Miller felt, now almost 70 years ago. Don’t ever expect me to write what Miller wrote.
Anyway, while I was re-reading the book once again, this time to distill from it a travel itinerary that would follow his footsteps as close as possible, I came upon this passage, which I absolutely have to share with someone. That someone’s you.
The Turks, in their fervid desire to desolate Greece, converted the land into a desert and a graveyard; since their emancipation the Greeks have been struggling to reforest the land. The goat has now become the national ennemy. He will be dislodged as the Turk was dislodged, in time. He is the symbol of poverty and helplessness. Trees, more trees, that’s the cry. The tree brings water, fodder, cattle, produce; the tree brings shade, leisure, song, brings poets, painters, legislators, visionaries. Greece is now, bare and lean as a wolf though she be, the only Paradise in Europe. What a place it will be when restored to its pristine verdure exceeds the imagination of man today. Anything may happen when this focal spot blazes forth with new life. A revivified Greece can very conceivably alter the whole destiny of Europe. Greece does not need archaeologists — she needs arboriculturists. A verdant Greece may give hope to a world now eaten away by white-heart rot.
What happened to that dream?