|Me at the Temple of Athena Nike on the Acropolis|
Please understand that I don’t take vacations. I don’t like them. They bore me. My only trips back in those days were to gatherings of authors and readers. Book tours. Conventions. Research. You get the idea.
But then in 2005 my husband died. He was Edgar-winning author Dennis Lynds. We’d raised our children together, wrote novels side-by-side, lived in each other’s pockets through the thick and thin of life and publishing. With his death, I didn’t know who I was anymore.
Enter Julia, my daughter. “You need to go to Greece. We’ll go together. Get your passport updated.”
As you can tell, Julia is a force. Besides, I was in a weakened state. Dare I say she might be right? I bought flight tickets.
With this blog, I begin the next series of Rogue Women posts – “A Vacation that Changed Me.” You won’t want to miss these insightful stories. To get your personal subscription to our blog, just click here.
Flying into Athens International was like landing on another planet – not only a strange language, but a strange alphabet, and I hadn’t gotten enough sleep. It was March 2006. Julia was young and energetic; I was feeling old and tired. She found the puddle-jumper that would fly us into Mykonos.
After sailing through a radiant blue sky above a turquoise Aegean Sea, we landed on magical Mykonos, born of the petrified bodies of giants. Really. Hercules killed them. The landscape was dry as bones. Considering the island’s origins, it wasn't unexpected.
|The magical island of Mykonos|
What is it about impossible terrains? They either conquer us, or we nestle in and find the beauty.
That’s what Mykonos turned out to be. White-washed houses with gemlike blue shutters dotted the brown hills. In the town of Mykonos, the shops, churches, and houses were also white-washed, so clean my grandmother would’ve let me eat off the stoops. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder with hardly a breath between, like close family members.
We rented a motor scooter, and Julia drove us up into the hills on winding dirt roads as narrow as ribbons. We passed goats, family chapels, horses, scrub, and wild flowers. The vistas were panoramic. The island’s peace began to seep into my soul.
We returned to our hotel, which clung like an act of faith to the side of a steep, rocky incline, and checked our email (well, some things never change). Julia spotted a sweet young cat on a rescue website who needed to be adopted. I fell asleep in my clothes.
The next day we flew back to chaotic Athens International. The constant hubbub was starting to seem almost rational. Still, I was grateful that Julia took charge, found us a real taxi, and we were off in a blaze of contrails.
Where Mykonos radiates peace, Athens thrums with motor noise, sirens, screeching tires, shouted voices. And those are the quiet moments. Still, there was something wonderfully invigorating about the place, of people fully alive with dreams for the future and
every intention of achieving them.
|The Hotel Grande Bretagne|
We stayed at one of the world’s great hostelries, the Hotel Grande Bretagne, located next to the parliament building on spacious Syntagma Square in the heart of the city. Revolutions were plotted here.
The Nazis made the hotel their Greek HQ during World War II. And today it’s the embodiment of modern luxury. Want a eucalyptus-scented shower? Hand-painted wallpaper? Pillows filled with the down of angel geese? (I’m kidding about the last, but you get the point.)
We walked everywhere. We loved the Parthenon, where ancient history seemed to ooze from both towering granite columns and fallen stones. Then there was Mount Lycabettus, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the ancient Agora marketplace. We investigated hidden byways and got lost several times.
And while we walked and talked and soaked in the grandeur that once was, I changed. Dennis had been terribly ill for a long time, and I began to accept his death. What were our lives after all compared to the thousands of years of history that our world embodied?
And finally I felt an obligation to live now, in this moment. What was important to me?, I wondered.
Before we left Athens, Julia made arrangements to adopt the foundling kitty on the rescue website, and I realized what I’d thought was a vacation had really been research for a new novel I all of a sudden wanted to write. I would set scenes in some of my favorite places in Athens, and I’d create an island like Mykonos. I even had a title – The Book of Spies.
All of that was ten years ago. Since then, Julia has acquired two kitties, married, and had a child of her own while continuing her career in New York. She's an amazing human being and daughter, and I'm forever grateful to her. I’ve moved from California to Maine to marry another wonderful man who makes my heart sing. Oh, and I still write novels. That's a big part of who I am. Please drop by my website and say hello.
What’s your favorite vacation?