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Summer is Over

Cavo d Oro, Kea, GreeceSept 3 2013

The summer is over. Not officially of course. There are still 3 weeks left but as if by magic when the calendar changed to September 1st so did the weather. The heat of the last few days of August gave way to a cool September morning and a day more suited to lunch in the Platia than cooling off in the sea.

The sun is still shining and the ferry still goes back and forth between Kea and the mainland and tourists still come through Hora on the way to the ancient lion, but a melancholy has set in as the last of the Tziotis who live in Athens but spend their summers in Kea, go back to a winter that promises to be a hard one with the poverty Greece's austerity has brought on. Most of us here forgot there was a crisis. Island life does this. My friend Peter, who happened to be on Sifnos when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, was anxious to fly back to America because on the island the images on the TV were something that people talked about, and there was plenty of sympathy, but somehow did not matter or affect island life. He felt like he was missing out on a catastrophe that all of us in America were experiencing and he felt guilty. I can understand that. From my terrace in Kea I can see Athens and the buildings spread across the plain of Attika. But unless I read the news or watch TV the economic crisis does not exist. For Athenians who have been suffering for five years, the break that summer gives them, even if it is only a couple weeks in August, must be a huge psychological relief.

Kea, ferryBut now the summer is over and the farewell greeting of Kalo Ximona, which means to 'have a good winter', sounds ominous. Very few people expect this to be a good winter. They expect more businesses to close, more taxes and less money to pay them. They expect family members to lose their jobs and need help and some fear for their own jobs if they still have one. The end of summer is the beginning of a harsh reality. Things will get better but they will probably get worse before they do.

At Rolandos restaurant a girl came to say goodbye to Rolando and Chrisoula with tears in her eyes. Kea is a few miles away from Athens but it might as well be in the middle of a far away ocean. The next time most of these people will see Kea is next Easter. The air will get cooler, then cold and rainy, some of the restaurants will close, there will be fewer ferries and the beaches will be empty. We are still a couple months away from bad weather but you can feel what direction we are going. Chances are good there will be hot summer weather between now and then. But we know it will only be temporary. I know that even summer is temporary but a heat wave in late September or October is more so, and may be perceived as a gift or a tease, depending on your attitude.

Tassos, KeaTassos who has been waiting on us at Rolando's nearly every night saw me on the street on my way to the store and said "Goodbye Mr Mathios", which took me by surprise. I didn't think he would leave so suddenly. Don't people want to relax on the island for a few days and enjoy the fruits of their labor before returning to the insanity of Athens? Not Tassos apparently, and with his little back-pack strapped over his shoulder he headed down the mountain to leave on the afternoon ferry for Lavrion. He has to go into the army like all young men his age. It's only nine months but for him the end of the summer has a whole other meaning.

Last night when we came to the restaurant for dinner Rolando and Chrysoula and the kitchen staff were sitting on the patio waiting for customers because there was nothing to do. It was the first time this summer I had seen the restaurant empty. Gradually the six tables on the patio filled up but we knew everyone at each table, the last remaining Athenians, all who have houses in the village. It gets dark early so we eat earlier and leave earlier. All the signs tell us the party is over. In a few weeks there will be weather that will force Rolando to roll down the plastic screens that protect his customers from the rain and the wind, early and late in the season.

Donkey in Kea, GreeceI enjoy the end of the summer after most of the Athenians are gone because you get to know the people who remain and some of the people who don't like the crowds of August, reappear on the first of September at Rolandos like they have been there all along. Plus this is the time that the people who take my advice and save their trip to Kea for September arrive on the island and tell me how much they like my website and ask if they can buy me a drink. Plus there are plenty of parking spaces and I don't have to waste my allotment of answered prayers. And even though up in Hora there is a chill in the air that feels like autumn, down at the beaches it is still summer only not as hot and with less people. And in September they allow the donkeys back in the village so you see more old men who come in to town to shop, tying them up to the pole outside Irini Greka's Market and hanging out at Rolandos.

Rolando and friendBut even for me there is a touch of sadness. In a few days we will go back to Athens to have dinner with our friends and the time will pass quickly, as it does when you are enjoying yourself, and before I know it I will be fastening my seatbelt and turning off my Greek cell-phone for the last time. And then like the Athenians I will spend my winter feeling nostalgic for the warm sunny days and comfortable nights of Kea. And I will miss the food and the people and the conversations at Rolandos, and the paidakia and roast pig and kontosouvli at Yiannis, and waking up in the morning and sitting on my terrace and watching the ferry come in or the freighters and tankers passing by. And the winter will seem long and I will miss my island life.

Until of course spring comes, as it always does and with it Easter and the process begins all over again.

Life could be worse.

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