The ebb & flow of love

Nikki, Montalivet, France

When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom. ~Leo Buscaglia

{Photo credit: Jock Sturges, Nikki, Montalivet, France}

My favourite slice of paradise

PN Kef emblisi pic

I awoke late by the Greek clock, early by the British hour, and my waking thought searched for that peaceful presence, that occupies a space in my heart recently encountered. I had been wandering along, feeling remarkably carefree and unsuspecting of the impending intrusion, and am left floating in the uncertain ocean of possibility, a place I have learned to embrace passionately, for after all it is full of infinite beauty, if we choose to see it.

I eventually found my body, having previously only been aware of my internal territory, and noticed the disparate relationship of my physical topography and the typically unyielding mattress of my austere Greek bed. Sounds of the port slipped through the shutters with the slices of light that had spilt across the crumpled sheet, wrapped around my legs, entwined in a memory. Sighing I summoned some strength and managed to inspire millions of motor neurons to move my body, in order to check the fluctuating Internet status of my abode by opening my emails. I read those I wanted, then sank back into my repose to process my findings until coffee called me, when I dressed swiftly in a faithful pair of denim shorts and vest, to bound down the stairs to greet the lively port and all the characters that make this particular slice of paradise so precious to me.

I wandered around the quay greeting friendly faces and answering the familiar questions (What took you so long? Where have you been? How long are you staying?), until I found Kosta in the quiet shade of his bar, whilst the staff served the tables outside as quietly as possible, so as not to aggravate his hangover. His face cracked into the most beautiful smile of recognition before his headache sharply reminded him of his condition. We laughed at life and hugged tightly despite his temporary fragility, catching up over a cappuccino (me) and water (he), sharing traditional pastries from the local bakery. Aggeliki lived up to her angelic moniker and administered her magical massage to the troublesome spot of Kostas neck that feels the tightest, and we lamented the consequences of age combined with the youthful behaviour of his crazy parties. Kosta surrendered to his struggling body and retired to bed, Aggeliki resumed her responsibilities at the bar, and I sat outside figuring there are worse places to contemplate ones indulgence in temptation, as the cheerful sunshine drenched the peaceful port, illuminating it’s beauty as boats gently traversed the glassy water.

After a while I left my seat on the balcony in search of the preciously acute and hilariously dry observations of Minas. He customarily spends the majority of the day at his favourite table, surveying his restaurant. Surrounded by his team of waiters, he called out across the square at my approach, heralding my arrival for anyone within 100m, and nursing his coke zero assured me that his diabetes is behaving lately. We discussed local politics and recounted stories of our shared histories, noting the changes and lamenting absent friends. We watched the life of the square and Minas’ grumbled for my entertainment, enjoying the audience for acknowledgement of his unique and frequently extreme viewpoints. I left Minas with a cheerful smile with a kiss for the orange juice, and walked around the corner to find Angelos in his office.

Angelos is a serious young man with the weight of responsibility resting on his shoulders, and a photo of his father smiling from beyond the grave on his desk. Our comprehension of the passage of time and our confusion over the specific years in which events occurred, served to remind us of the accelerated speed of time that age bestows upon us. Although at least a year younger than I (and a quarter of a century than Minas), he always makes me feel juvenile with my independent adventures in contrast to his empire building vocation. We put the world to rights, and he tells me to keep travelling and bringing home my stories for his enjoyment. I left him with promises to visit his mother soon and sent some love to his wife and children before sauntering back along the quay with an undeniable hunger for my darling, the sea.

As luck would have it, Makis had a similar craving, so when I popped into the shop on my way back to the apartment, he offered me a lift to his favourite beach; allowing me a quick change of clothes as he sat impatiently with the engine running. The car curled expertly into the curves of the road, just a short distance before our descent amongst the fragrant pines towards the turquoise water sitting, waiting, assuredly faithful, for our adoration. Makis changed in the car, and it was my turn to be impatient as I rushed towards the deliciousness. I paused momentarily to drop my bag on the beach and swap my ray bans for Cressi goggles, before hastily stepping into the water, saving my entering breath to exhale below the surface.

The crystal clear water engulfed me, and it felt as if anything other than bliss was cleansed from my soul, instantly revealing the clarity of this privilege. I swam towards the shelf, clearly marked by the line where aquamarine meets turquoise, inhabited by numerous fish that swim unafraid of the human company that dips into their world. I took a moment to float like a starfish in gratitude, to feel the surface tickle my sun kissed skin, feeling supported by the powerful entity in its reassuring calmness. Having spent the summer in California, enchanted by the ocean, my heart has still pined for my true ‘agapi’, the Ionian sea, with it’s gentle caress and beautiful hues of the heavenly blue spectrum. I submerged completely; lost in that peace that resides within and felt my physiology sigh thankfully, as does the heart in the embrace of a previously estranged lover. I noted my slowed pulse and that internal tranquility one finds when gratitude obliterates any other emotion, before breaking the surface to breathe in deeply the joy of living. I swam across the bay, much to the amusements of Greeks who tend to swim straight out into the darker deeper waters, beyond the rocks and around to neighbouring bays, whilst I cause disruption to the traffic system since I wasn’t born by the water and lack their confidence. I soon found my rhythm, breathing deeply for the long strokes my lengthy limbs prefer, and smiled at the un-phased fish, which loitered nonchalantly in my pathway, showing off their magnificent iridescence in the piercing sun beams. I finished my dip, resuming the star-fish floating position for my finale, before joining Makis and his sister on the beach to top up my tan as the sun sat high above the shady olive trees.

Makis returned to the shop, leaving his towel and flippers for his girlfriend Nancy, who appeared for her swim, bravely venturing beyond the visible rocks, before settling on the beach and into the conversation amongst the locals whose children played at the shoreline. I let the language waft over me as I lay under my panama, feeling the heat on my skin and remembering vocabulary and other trips. My thoughts wandered away from the beach and retraced some recent adventures, exploring new territory and chambers of my heart, slipping through the layers of awareness and comprehension, desire and vulnerability. The afternoon drifted by, as the shade inched towards the shoreline, soon eclipsing the beach, cooling my salt dried skin. Yaya, a French friend that runs the diving school, kindly gave me a lift back to the port, and I wandered down the steps smiling as I noticed my shoulders have dropped several inches after my sea-bathing. I encountered Nikos & Themis passing the bar, and admitted that I’d cheated on the Greek sea with the Pacific Ocean, but that my heart was ‘home’ again, laughing as they teased me good naturedly, but promising to join them for the last buffet at The Thai restaurant. It’s the end of the season here, and as tourism cools, businesses close for the winter. For me it’s the best time to visit; the port is returned to the locals, and as they untie themselves from their shops, bars and restaurants, they have time to relax and enjoy it again.

I’m writing in the port, replete after my Thai dinner and catching up with Anna & Pete (who tend to collectively know all the news in the village). I found a sweet spot at Le Passage, beautiful Eleni’s new business venture, which reflects her chic style and sweet nature, as well as her family’s famous restaurant for locals in the village up the hill. As I sip my tea (Jasmine) looking out over the still dark water, it reflects the pretty lights of the port in a perfectly mirrored image. The yachts are lined up and sit obediently waiting for adventures tomorrow, and the impressive private cruisers jostle for pole position for admiration along the quay. Passing friends greet me with hugs of welcome, and acquaintances nod in recognition; they know that this is my favourite slice of heaven on earth, and that I wherever I travel, I will always find a way ‘home’ again. I have had a gorgeous day, and I have more of the same to look forward to again tomorrow : )) Evlogimeni eimai (I’m blessed) !!

I hope that wherever you are, that you have an opportunity to appreciate your environment and spend time with people that enhance your being too. Blessings & filakia (kisses) ❤ Hxx

{Photo of my slice of Paradise 🙂 Words ~Hayley Darby ©2013}

Waking thoughts

coffee steps

Good morning everyone!! Regular readers will know that when in London I usually write in the mornings, and savour those sweet moments as I wake, observing my inner territories as I slip from sleep into consciousness. This is something I have missed in Laguna, where peaceful dreams are abruptly terminated on a daily basis (by a rather inconsiderate neighbour), so that my priority is dressing quickly and fleeing to the beach for coffee in search of a better temperament than the one I wake with. There I find some solace in the waves that smooth the jagged edges, and by the time my latte is done, I am smiling at the day ahead as I watch the surfers gracefully tickle the ocean. I am filled with wonder at the power and magnitude of this incredible entity, and sitting at its edge I notice how small and insignificant we seem, and arrogant to suppose we could control the world we inhabit.

However, despite my mornings at the beach, I do miss that space between dreams and consciousness, those moments of bliss where I sense that everything is exactly as it’s meant to be and I can somehow make perfect sense of the chaos that is reality. I miss the slow realization of my soul inhabiting my body, as I notice my placement of the pillow and the waking thoughts that wash over me. I yearn to hear the whispers of my heart that speak so clearly when I’m not listening to logic or the multitude of concerns and responsibilities that seep in so quickly once the brain stirs into action. I crave that awareness of who I am beyond the person in the life I’m living, but as a force of nature and a spiritual being, without form or boundaries, limits or ambition. And yet I’m acutely aware, that when I’m not here I will miss the ocean, and it will fill my dreams with it’s overwhelming power and mystery, and I will wish I was on the steps at the beach, sipping my coffee : )) Blessings & love Hxx

{Photo sadly uncredited, via Pinterest; words by Hayley Darby © 2013}

My first surf lesson (20th July 2013)

me surfingHi everyone!! It’s been another amazing day here in SoCal, and I am very aware that as the days and weeks slip by that I am busy being here, and not writing as much as I had planned; but ‘being’ just seems to be my priority, and there’s been a lot of ‘being’ to be! Today though was an especially awesome day, and one I want to commit to memory through written word, a reminder to read again when I need to remember how awesome it felt to face a fear, and how much I loved my first surf lesson!

I love the ocean, if you didn’t know this already, ‘welcome’ you must be new here! I dream about it when I’m at home in London, and feel most at home on a beach than anywhere else, and although I can swim I’m not terribly confident in the water. In Greece, where I have spent many happy times, I swim in crystal clear waters that are often have a pond like surface; here in Socal I could watch the waves gracefully arc and fall for hours, but have never ventured out to greet them, until today that is. Today I took my very first surf lesson, and pushed through my fears and self-imposed limitations as I swallowed my pride, and a more than a mouthful or two of salty water, to attempt something I’ve been telling myself for years that I would have tried if I was younger. Well I’m never going to be younger again than I am at present; but my courage found a friend in a patient and kind teacher, and it seemed like an adventure with my name emblazoned on it.

Growing up inland, I never really learnt to swim proficiently, it was only in my late 20’s that I learnt to breathe as I swam the length of the pool, albeit with my head out of water like a swan. Then in my thirties, after being seduced by the Greek sea, I took a single lesson to acquire a better technique (with the help of goggles), and can swim a reasonably acceptable breast-stroke back and forth across my favourite bays, watching the fish that glide beneath me. This gave me a taste of a calm, serene world that I fell in love with, an escape from the ridiculous chatter that pollutes my brain and a way to reconnect on a deeper level. However as my travels took me to shores of ferocious oceans (Bali, Australia, and California), my love of the deep remained in the form of a spectator, as I watched and admired the surfers from afar, enchanted as they played so elegantly amongst such unharnessed power.

I really never thought I’d be brave enough, or that I could be fit or agile enough, or indeed any kind of enough to put my life out there, leashed to a board, an inanimate object amongst the frighteningly fierce forces of the deep and daunting depths of the ocean. I’ve read too many Tim Winton novels and seen too many surf movies (Point Break, Lords of Dogtown et al.) where the dangers have been spelt out explicitly to enhance the drama; and I’ve met strong (sometimes cute) men in Bali, propping up bars with their ‘survivor’ stories, scars and injuries. However, there is something enticing about the sport; the freedom and oneness with the ocean, not to mention the ‘aloha’ culture and the tanned lithe bodies, and as I’ve been watching the waves here in Laguna the temptation has been calling, quietly yet persistently.

So when I met L a surfer-girl from Hawaii as I sat with coffee at ‘Brooks’ one morning, I was instantly charmed by her courage and dedication to a sport that steals her from her husband for hours daily. He surfs too, and shapes boards for a living, but his love of the waves cannot compete with his wife’s dedication, her escape and coping mechanism for any stress she’s encountered. Chatting one day, L’s husband asked if I’d give her a nutrition consultation, and since I cannot take payment (without a US work permit) she suggested a surf lesson in return. It was a pleasure to share my knowledge and understanding, not to mention my passion of healthy eating, yet part of me was unsure about accepting the lesson. However, L has a very understanding and patient character, someone I could trust, and hence it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

So today we met early, emboldened with coffee and well wishes from fellow wave watchers in Laguna, and drove up to Newport where the water is shallower for further, and there are less rocky outcrops to encounter. We drove through the cute homes on the Balboa peninsula and took the 3 car ferry across to the island, praying patiently to the ‘parking Goddess’ for a space near the pier for L’s flatbed truck that suits her immensely, despite her petite frame and feminine appearance. We changed into wetsuits, luckily we are the same size although I’m six inches taller, and once I’d got that far (one doesn’t merely dress but struggles into neoprene I discovered) I realised I was committed, and there was no going back without the burden of a regret too heavy to carry.

We practiced on sand initially, the jump from paddling whilst lying to standing, and I discovered I’m ‘goofy’ which means I’m left-footed, despite being right-handed, rather than simply as inelegant as the Disney character might be if he surfed; and I’m sure he’d be far more elegant than I anyway. We waded out, jumping the galloping white horses of waves that tumbled over each other and into the shore, then turned to present our backs to resist them as they got stronger, before launching ourselves over them as we progressed further out, deeper and deeper out of my comfort zone. I am not adept at keeping my eyes open under water, and struggle to clear the drops that cling to my eyelashes on surfacing; so feeling disorientated and utterly vulnerable I climbed to sit on the board as L held the nose steady for me, as steady as she could out of her depth between the sets. It took a while to get my position, evidently I need a longer board to stand on since I’m tall, but the light board we took today was a perfect introduction to feel the waves, learn to catch them as they crested, and practice paddling; and as soon as I caught my first one properly, somewhere between realizing that the sensation of joy that was propelled by the energy of the sea playing with me, I knew the desire exceeded my fear, and I was eager to try again and again. I did have some epic wipe outs, and felt incredibly impuissant in the force of the waves as they pounded my body, and tasted the bitter salty water that stang my eyes so viciously. Yet each time I recovered quickly, and got back on the board to paddle over the breakers to wait for the next wave I might try and ride on. After several hours I felt fatigue creep over me, and as we returned to the beach I felt myself grinning all over!

There were several novices in the friendlier water by the pier today, and we acknowledged each other’s progress and somehow avoided colliding and injury. And as we rinsed the salt from our wetsuits in the shower after our efforts, it felt somehow surreal that I too had partaken in this activity rather than just watching from the sidelines. As if I couldn’t quite believe that I had been the girl in the water, afraid but stubbornly determined, as if I had observed that part of me between feeling the sea carry me and giggle as it playfully pushed me, in the manner of my father swinging me around as a toddler.

Today I had my first surf lesson and it was awesome! I faced a fear and although I’m still afraid, I know how it looks and feels, I experienced it’s textures and tasted it, to discover that it’s something I can cope with, that yes it will knock me down, but I can withstand more than I thought, and for now I’m ready to get back up again, and I’m ready to be that afraid again, as soon as possible! Maybe you have a fear that’s not nearly as scary close up as it seems from afar, I guess the only way to find out, is to plunge right in and take a closer look! ‘Stoked’ and happy, and so very grateful for my kind and patient teacher : )) Blessings & love, Hxx

Photo & words: Hayley Darby ©2013

Footprints..

footprints

Good morning everyone! Today I woke late, drifting into consciousness from the dreamy depths, as I surfaced to the sound of the wind swirling round the house, with the TV ariel swaying against the chimney to mimic the sound of yacht rigging. I lay for a while to get my bearings in the gloomy half light, it’s a very grey day in London, making the comfort of the nest in which I woke more delicious than coffee, for a while at least. I slipped back into some dreams of the sea, those gentle lulling waves near the shore, feeling safe and secure yet free. I miss the beach, and as sleep slipped away like fine sand running through my hands, I visualized walks along some favourite shores I have visited before: (South beach, Miami; Three Arch Bay & Laguna, California; Legian, Bali; Palm beach & Avalon, Sydney; Cei bach, Llangrannog & Penbryn, Wales; and my Greek island ‘secrets’) but none of them seemed to know what I was looking for, and the wind continued to rage beyond the window, sending echoes down the chimney. The footprints in the sand may be washed away, but those in my heart are surely indelible.

Resigned to wakefulness eventually, I stretched my full length, pushing my toes into the cool brass of the bedstead, then twisting my spine before getting up to grab a robe and descend the stairs into the day ahead. I lit candles in the living room as the coffee machine spluttered into my favourite mug (a tall pink bistro latte cup, a gift from LS), and inhaled the aroma of eucalyptus, rose and sandalwood (Penhaligon’s Elixir) as I settled on the awesome sofa with my laptop. The trees bowed to the weather in the dark day beyond the windows, and I felt smug & snug for a while as I flicked through my emails, I am seriously bad at managing them and my inbox is over-flowing <sigh!>. After a hearty breakfast of porridge with pear and cinnamon, topped with Greek yoghurt and almonds, I’m craving fresh air, and since it’s not raining, I’m going to walk up the hill into the village, preparing to get windswept, to meet LS and catch up on festive news over tea and treats in our favourite deli. We may or may not check out some bargains in the sales, no purchases planned, but I’m not making any promises! I hope you have a fabulous Saturday whatever you’re up to, and that the Christmas spirit keeps you warm and happy if you’re in a cooler climate : )) ..and if you’re somewhere hot, please do send some sunny vibes in this direction! Blessings & love, Hxx

 

{Photo sadly uncredited, via Pinterest}