Dear 2016..

maria-koutala-1

Dear 2016,

You have been brutal, by far the most difficult, painful, expensive, terrifying, sad and challenging year of my life. You commenced with life-changing, emergency spinal surgery (x2); and culminated with the heart-wrenching demise of my beloved father, cruelly snatched from life, so suddenly and unexpectedly. I have gritted my teeth determinedly, bitten my tongue patiently, and cried several oceans, unreservedly. My body aches daily, my mind worries anxiously, and my heart is repeatedly smashed to smithereens as the waves of grief crash over me. Yet, I am grateful, you have been a year of my life, I have learnt many painful lessons, and I am ready for 2017.

You have been a year of struggles and loss, but loving light has pierced the darkest depths of despair. Every day, as my world fell apart, the sun still rose, and the world kept on turning, even though I had wished it would stop and let me step off, momentarily. I noticed sunlight dancing gracefully in the leaves of a tunnel of trees, as I drove from the hospice, blinded by tears I couldn’t curtail. And once as I crested the brow of a hill, overwhelmed with sorrow, strong shafts of light poured through the clouds, reaching down from the heavens to steady me. When I felt hopeless, rainbows magically appeared to comfort and encourage me, and when I was tired and defeated, sunsets gently soothed and nourished me.

Amongst all the difficulties, angels have emerged to help, support and care for me, friends and family who held me when I fell apart, and picked up the pieces of my life as they lay scattered around me. I have been enveloped by kindness, as I learned to walk after surgery, and again as I learned to walk in a world without my Daddy. Dear friends have shared their understanding that the gaping hole in my life will never be healed, but that I will come to accept its presence, and learn to live by filling it with never-ending love and happy memories. I am eternally grateful for these loving souls that have shared my journey.

My mornings greet me unfailingly with the wet nosy kisses and joyful tail wags, of unconditional love. My dogs have been my best medicine, strongest motivators, and most comforting, loyal companions, through everything. Because of them, I have found the strength to get up and embrace the day, and found myself admiring beautiful dawns, when I thought I wanted to hide in sleep. They have licked away my salty tears, snuggled lovingly into my broken body, and found smiles in my face when I didn’t think there were any. They have silently acknowledged my pain and let me bury my face in their warm furry necks to weep, sought me out for snuggles and cuddles, and accepted the changes they couldn’t understand, patiently. Leo is such a loving boy, and continues to fight valiantly against the life threatening disease you bestowed upon him. Poppy is becoming affectionate and sweet, learning to trust and settle, despite the many moves and upheaval. And Platon remains my rock, protective and patient, unswervingly loyal and devoted, even when earthquakes unnerved him.

2016, you have been horrible, the world has lost some amazingly talented souls, you enabled Brexit, and voted in a disastrously dangerous choice of American president. Many desperate refugees have drowned fleeing war torn countries, terrorists have ripped apart the lives of many and their families, and atrocities continue to be inflicted on innocents as their homes are destroyed by militants. The world is full of hostility and cruelty, it is plagued by anger and swamped in sorrow, but light still shines through the darkness, beauty blooms amidst despair and misery, courage clings on through adversity, hope remains steadfastly, and love is still stronger than anything. Please tell your successor 2017, to bring it on, I am ready!!

Blessings & love, Hxx

{Photo credit: The talented, Maria Koutala, Kefalonia. Words by Hayley Darby ©2016}

Writing again..

Platon smiling
A cool breeze slipped through the shutters, and the tinkle of goat bells crept into my consciousness. The warm, breathing, body beside me sighed and rolled closer into my legs; wagging his tail, before lifting his head to check whether I was awake, finally! As if he’s been waiting for all eternity for the pleasure of my company. Every morning I am greeted with the happy expectant face of Platonas (my puppy), eager for another beautiful day of playful adventure, full of joy and optimism, which must be contagious, because I never feel any different. Once he is satisfied that I am actually awake, he gets up to inspect my face, and pushes his big black, wet nose into it, in response to the kissing noises I make. Then he stretches his bottom high in the air and his chest low, in a classic play bow; waiting for me to stir, giving in to a slightly impatient cuddle if I’m not quite ready to get up. As soon as I push back the covers, he jumps to the edge of the bed, showing off his impressive ‘downward dog’, front paws on the floor, back legs still on the bed (and he’s a tall dog), until he gracefully jumps down, and scampers around, wagging his tail, waiting for me.

Our home on our favourite Greek island is an attic apartment; which sounds very urban, but is actually on a small farm in a cute little village. We have the most amazing view across the sea to the neighbouring island to the east, and across the valley to dense forests of olive and cypress trees to the south and west. Platon impatiently rings the goat bell I have tied to the balcony door handle, even though I am only a few steps behind him, and we step out together to watch the morning sun glisten on the sea, having spilt over the mountains of Ithaki, bathing the early fishing boats and the occasional cruise ship on passing. Platon then pops up onto the sofa to watch patiently as I make coffee, he knows that the day starts with a leisurely cappuccino and sharing of cantuccini (those deliciously crunchy, Italian, almond biscotti). I potter around the kitchen, tidying up the crockery in the drying rack, shaking out the table cloth over the balcony, and watering the herbs (basil, mint, and chives) on our doorstep with the water from the washing up bowl. Our water is delivered by tankers to a big stone ‘sterna’, and we are much more careful than mains usage. Then as the coffee pot starts to gurgle, I froth the warm milk and Platon makes a space for me on the sofa. He sits with his paws on my lap, lowering his chin to look up at me most appealingly, as I dip each biscotti into the froth, and waits for his share (once I’ve nibbled away any almonds in his half, as they’re not good for dogs). My mornings are no longer my own, to check in and reflect on my feelings, but are filled with more love than I could ever imagine; and more than a little slobber as he dribbles in anticipation for each morsel of our shared breakfast. I wouldn’t change them for anything!

I don’t really know why I stopped writing before Platonas and I found each other in a barren wilderness; him literally starving, me (with a car load of food shopping) wondering which direction my life would take. I guess it was a combination of things, moving to California for a summer, finding myself anxious to get up and out in the mornings rather than savouring my thoughts and feelings (hideous, nosey landlady vs. coffee at the beach watching the early surfers, no competition really!). Then there was a feeling of change, lacking a plan, full of uncertainty, and a fatigue from giving, (which I am sure sounds selfish, but was actually a form of self-preservation). After my summer in Cali, and a brief encounter in London, I came to Greece, (my sanctuary), and just let myself ‘be’, as I waited to see where the flow would take me. Floating in turquoise seas and walking ancient paths through olive groves and crumbling ruins; choosing quiet and solitude, and adoring the simplicity. Then I travelled a lot, (Mexico, Florida, Colorado, New Orleans, and more of California), worked with some Olympic athletes, and got caught up in a relationship for a while, none of which was conducive to journaling. Then I returned to Greece for a few weeks holiday, found Platonas and stayed for the summer, briefly moving to Italy in the autumn, before driving home with my best ever travel companion to London (a tale I will write about soon). Winter was stressful, for all sorts of reasons, but my loving ‘little boy’ never failed to warm my heart and induce laughter at his comical character. Every spare moment was spent snuggling on the sofa together, walking around the vast and enchanting cemetery, or chasing each other around until we both collapsed panting and exhausted. Writing was not a priority.

It felt like months of waiting to return ‘home’ to Greece, and now we are here, we are appreciatively soaking up every sunny second. And each day, as we head to the beach after breakfast, wander along shady goat paths in the afternoons, or pop into the port for shopping and coffee, with a cast of delightful characters; I can feel my thoughts forming sentences, committing to memory the feelings as I relish them, and feel pulled to write to share and remember these precious moments. And now, as my attention is drawn to the raised head that angles inquisitively, I am being called to walk up the hill, amidst my landlords garden of tomatoes, onions, (and all sorts of vegetables) as the goats potter around them; to sit under an old olive tree and feed Platon ice cubes in the heat of the day, him crunching noisily, and me telling him why I’ve started writing again. Because I never, ever, even for a nanosecond, want to forget any of this chapter of my life that he’s spending with me. X

Blessings & love, Hxx