Marking A Solstice In Greece
The sliver of a bright crescent moon beckons. I step into the balcony to give it my full attention. I see a twinkling star above the moon’s gentle curve; like a perfect couple, they smile and light up the entire sky.
It is still dark when I walk to the beach. The mauve of the horizon changes from a band of magenta to pink, orange, yellow, red. A wide rainbow zig zags on the horizon moving rapidly, as if a carefree child is waving a color palette across the canvas of the wide sky.
An owl hoots, reminding me to hurry. Bird calls gets louder, a symphony of sounds urge me on. Street lights illuminating the path now seem unnecessary as the first light of day generously washes over everything in sight.
The water, surprisingly, is not cold. I pick up my flip flops and walk with wet feet caked with sand to a dry spot. The camera captures but does not do justice to the beauty of the morning sky on the island of Crete; the moon, a faint apostrophe on a pale blue sheet; the star, no longer visible.
A bright spot on the distant horizon, a gleam under the surface of the ocean keeps getting larger, like a balloon being inflated from beneath, forced upwards by sheer pressure.
At the shore, red and black rocks with surfaces pummelled to a smooth sheen by incessant tides, and feet of travelers like me, invite me to rest. The orb of the sun peeks shyly at first but gains confidence rapidly as it rises.
A couple takes turns to pose for the perfect picture, trying to pick an angle that flatters both the sunrise and them. My camera trains on the horizon for a pure shot of the sunrise. But my click coincides with two kids running across my carefully composed frame, their hands raised upwards as they joyfully chase each other, ruining my composition.
I am not aware of the day of the week, I am on vacation in Greece. But I know the date is the 21st of June, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.
Standing still at sunrise
The term solstice, derived from the Latin solstitium is made up of the Latin sol, ‘the sun’ and sistere — ‘to stand still’. At solstice, during the seasonal movement of the Sun’s daily path, it pauses at a northern or southern limit before reversing direction. If the sun indulges itself with a periodic pause before changing direction, it seems appropriate that on my fiftieth year on the planet, in this exotic spot, so far from home, I feel the urge to stop and notice the day and it’s significance.
The sun rises everyday. But why do I appreciate the majesty of creation only when leave home, travel great distances, and pause long enough to watch the careless beauty of a daily event?
The moon hovers like a visitor unsure of her welcome in the presence of the celebrity sun. But in this brief window of time each day the sun bequeaths its luminous rays indiscriminately on everything in sight, including its competitor, without prejudice or artifice.
Such perfect moments occur each day, a sliver of time when everything fits together, like the crescent and the star both visible despite the sun on the horizon. It is breathtakingly beautiful precisely because it is elusive, ephemeral, fleeting. Or is it? How often have I allowed circumstances to overpower my ability to appreciate the subtle beauty of life, much like the blazing rays of the sun at noon?
I only notice the moon in the sun’s absence, although the moon’s gentle, pleasant visage has always brightened me up in dark times. Whether it shrinks or grows, waxes or wanes, disappears or shines, hangs large and low across my window or is obscured from view, I have always taken solace in the knowledge that it is always present.
Beauty lurks in the soft shadows, hesitant to stand up and draw attention to herself, like the morning moon. Before we can look for it, we need to know it exists.
Is it my age or this location that highlights the difference within me this year — a deliberate meditativeness that I cannot attribute to minor aches and pains and physical restrictions? There is an inside-out restructuring of sorts, a resetting of an ancient clock that is syncing me with the greater cycle of life, a gentle but undeniable awakening.
Of all the things I am grateful for, I appreciate this opportunity to travel, to mark a significant milestone in my life on an island that has existed for eons, served as the crucible for an ancient civilisation, has been ruled by many empires, and borne witness to the ebb and flow of life for centuries.
I travel to discover a new place, and in the process, I uncover something new about myself.
Originally published at http://www.ranjanirao.com on January 26, 2020.