As summer fades to fall

sea scape

I woke early this morning, the wind howling round the villa having found an unsecured shutter to bang rhythmically and intrude my dreams. I lay for a while staring up at the gauzy mosquito net, and noticed my body stretched out across the bed, having kicked off the heavy blanket I had thought was a prudent addition when I retired yesterday. So I snuggled back under the covers, and curled up in the hope of slipping back into dreams, but the errant shutter persisted, calling me to secure it. Dressing quickly in cosy jersey, I braved the elements, and whilst the wind whipped my hair about my shoulders, adjusted the noisy culprit and fished some wayward lounger cushions from the pool, before tidying the furniture and retreating inside for hot tea on the ample sofa.

I checked some emails, and chatted briefly with friends at home on FB, assuring them that sunny photo’s of yesterday were indeed a blessing in October, as we now have rain forecast here for several days. Then noticing the hunger pangs that echoed the empty refrigerator, bundled up in my sailing jacket and made my way up the lane to Liz & Joe’s café/deli for a huge cappuccino and their very generous serving of French toast with mascarpone and preserved figs. The café is a popular meeting post for locals, Greek and ex-pats alike, so that on a grey, drizzly day it was soon busy with lively chatter as the children floated amongst the tables, entertained by everyone. Liz worked tirelessly in the kitchen, whilst Joe waited tables, infusing his own eccentric brand of self-amusing humour into every conversation.

Deciding that today was a work (writing) day, I took my leave to find a quieter spot, abandoning my initial idea to travel to the next port since the fresh rain on the oily roads of a whole summer, can cause precarious driving conditions on the beautiful winding road along the coast. I chose instead to seek refuge in a quiet cocktail bar at the hotel with super-squashy sofas, and delicious homemade cookies, served abundantly with my tea by the staff that know my weakness for them. I hid amongst the books, which have doubtless been well read and left to share, by the seasons guests; and let the emotional Greek soundtrack wash over me, as sonorous heartbreak and melancholy filled the air. Perfect for a rainy day in Paradise, and as my dear friend ADS says, ‘there is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing’, and maybe that should include ‘choice of perspective’.

The rain falls gently, as the clouds sit low on the neigbouring islands, and the sky lends an opaque light to the lush green landscape, that no doubt rejoices silently at this change in climate. The seascape is brooding and moody, with the blurred horizon seeping into the sky almost imperceptibly, devoid of the numerous white sails usually apparent. There’s a calm and cosy atmosphere, a feeling of surrender to the changing season, and an acceptance that summer has finally faded into fall, gracefully and beautifully to let us appreciate the soulful season, whose chill in the air helps us seek the warmth within our hearts, if we let it.

I hope that wherever you are, you are finding some gift in the weather conditions too; for life is always more agreeable when we focus on what we can change, and accept those we cannot, and beauty exists anywhere we are prepared to find it. Blessings & love, Hxx

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

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}

September letter

beach type

Good morning everyone!! Today I woke early, around 6am, and snuggled into the covers in search of sleep again; happy just knowing I had the privilege of such an option. I drifted for a while as my mind considered attaching itself to the thoughts it observed floating by, but in the end the draw of the deep was too great to overcome and I succumbed to the dreamy depths, to dwell in that secure state where the answers are all obvious and nothing is a problem. I woke later in the morning feeling calm and refreshed, and decidedly carefree, as if any potential obstacles on the horizon will work themselves out, or I will overcome them and gain some new learning. So I lay for a while in gratitude for the peaceful feeling, until thoughts of coffee distracted me and I got up to greet the day beyond the blind.

It’s a cool autumnal day here in London, there’s a dampness in the air, but blue sky patches appear sporadically amongst the clouds, and it’s not raining (which is a relief after the relentless downpour yesterday). I pottered round the house for a while with my latte, still reorganizing my home after a protracted absence, and chatted with the dustmen (refuse collectors) who welcomed me back from my trip with tales of their summers and experiences in America. They are such a friendly team, always so cheerful and it’s nice to know that they’ve been keeping an eye on my property for me. I addressed some laundry, answered some emails, and made a list of all the important things that need doing today.

The top priority is my annual letter to Billy. Billy is a dear friend from my favourite Greek island, yesterday was his birthday, and every year I write him a letter, pouring out all the things I wish for him and all the important stuff I wish I had known at his age (he’s just turned 18 years). Billy is a beautiful soul, he’s a thoughtful guy wrapped in fun with a cheeky grin and lovely manners, and I adore him. It’s a letter of love really; just an out-pouring from my heart, that takes me on a journey as I write it, through my own learning curves, regrets and understanding, and is full of hope to inspire courage and compassion in this young man that is so dear to me. Of course I don’t have all the answers, and much of our learning must come from personal experience, but I write so that he knows that I care, that I believe in him, that I wish the best for him, that I will celebrate his success and appreciate his struggles, and that when his heart has been broken and trampled on, I will be here to listen and gently encourage him to pick up the pieces and keep loving. This annual letter writing usually takes place on a favourite Greek beach, when I arrive around the time he has to return to school on the mainland. So today I’m going in search of that space within, where I am full of gratitude for the beauty that surrounds me, and my thoughts can float with the sun on the sea, and a love that’s as deep as the ocean churns up all the words I need.

I hope that you have a beautiful day, and hope that you have received and will send love letters, not necessarily romantic, just a way to reach out and let someone know that they are cherished, and that your heart fills with all the beauty that you have seen, because you want to share it too Blessings & love, Hxx

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

Gorgeous Rainy Morning!

me coffee

Good morning everyone! Today I woke early, jet-lag finally seems to have jetted off, and 6am was a pleasure again. I lay for a while in the white fluffy meringue-ness of my bed, still a delight after a less than luxurious, rather uncomfortable divan in my Californian abode, and watched the light creep round the edge of the blind as thoughts of beach-life seeped into my brain. We have had some beautiful warm, sunny days here in London, and I was sunbathing on the balcony and then the Heath, in 84 (29) degrees yesterday. It was a hot sticky night, but today a comprehensive cloud cover and the promise of rain accompany the cooler back-to-school weather (61 degrees).

I threw back the covers and raised the blind, watching the softness of the light seep into the sky, and opened the window to deeply inhale the cool, damp earthy fragrance as I smiled at the trees. I wrapped up in my robe and made my way downstairs in search of coffee, loving my Nespresso machine that little bit more ardently after our protracted separation. I stood in the kitchen, tending the thirsty herbs on the window sill (mint, coriander & basil), as the dark, rich, aromatic elixir chugged into my favourite china mug, before returning to bed to savour the morning and the precious silence I have missed so much.

My rented cottage in California was the most costly and least successful part of my trip; sadly the picturesque cottage came with an interfering, attention-seeking elderly landlady who challenged boundaries (including the law) on several levels. Apart from entering my property almost daily in my absence to snoop through my belongings, and opening my post (including my bank statements), she sought attention whenever I was present. This initially began veiled in kind concern, knocking on my door at 7am to offer coffee (as she had made a large cafetiere), but once I had politely declined a few times and as I started rejecting almost constant requests for company, she resorted to negative attention and drama seeking. This included (but was not limited to) incredibly noisy behaviour in the mornings, from door slamming to coffee grinding at 6am, and a whole range of purposeful disturbance techniques that included singing as she showered in MY outdoor shower outside the bedroom window. Suffice to say mornings slipped from being my favourite time of day, and my coping mechanism was to get up and dress immediately before heading out as quickly as possible, to find a better mood than the one I was awoken with. This usually took me on a brisk walk down the hill towards PCH, taking a slight detour for a biscotti and friendly banter at Andree’s bakery, before a cheerful welcome and Hemp latte at The Laguna coffee company, which I took to Brook’s beach to watch the surfers and admire the rhythmic waves. Somehow this never failed to lift the cloudy countenance and return a sunny smile to my face, even when the morning marine layer persisted.

Back in London, there is no ocean to breathe in serenity, and I miss the friendly crowd at The Laguna Coffee Co. but I am so grateful for the peace and quiet my busy, city home affords me, tucked away from the roads, hidden from traffic noise, ensconced in tranquil solitude, waking when my body is ready. And as the rain now descends, gently tapping on the window and tickling the leaves of the trees, although I’m a sun bunny in love with the ocean, there are plenty of reasons to be happy in London! I hope that wherever you are, that you are blessed with something about your environment you can appreciate insanely, and that if your peace is disturbed, that you find a way back to the calm place that resides inside all of us, because it’s there just waiting for you, trust me! Blessings & love, Hxx

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

Affirmation

peaceful feet

If I choose to dwell in gratitude that focuses on peace in my heart, harmony in my relationships, health in my body, abundance in my life, and love in my soul; then I won’t let any fear, doubt or anxiety distract me from the business of being happy and thankful for my blessings. ❤

{Photo sadly uncredited, via Pinterest. Words ~Hayley Darby (2013)}

Warrior

warrior

Life is way too short to spend another day at war with yourself. Forgive your mistakes, accept your human fallibility, and embrace your authentic self. Appreciate your valued qualities rather than focus on your disappointments, we are all works in progress; be kind and patient with yourself, and make peace with you ♥ Hxx

{Photo sadly uncredited via Pinterest}

Grace

I want first of all… to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact–to borrow from the language of the saints–to live “in grace” as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, “May the outward and inward man be one.” I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God.
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

{Picture sadly uncredited via Pinterest}