5AM - Exploring the Greek Islands

5 AM by Glenn R. Steiner  

The sounds of animals wake me at Pension Annas.  I let the soft mornings light guide me to the door, drawing me gently from the warmth of my bed.  Always, the roosters rise first, then the dogs calling to each other, followed by the soft braying of the old donkeys yee-haw, yee-haw, yee-haaaaw, making me smile.  Lastly, it is the chirping of sparrows and other small birds searching for their breakfast, hopping from the branches of the olive trees to the dusky low grape vines below.

The immortal Greek sky starts to brighten, first dark turning to silver, and then the light, the Greek light as Helios starts his ride and begins his day, pushing through the morning clouds, rising abruptly from the sea off Anafi.

A soft crunching, the old feet of a Santorian man well past his retirement, walking through volcanic fields, follows an old track, past the newly planted grape vines that hug the earth so closely here.  It was an old path, even back when he was young.  He disappears into a small ravine.

Below me, the earth is white ash and pumice, and intermixed with white and startling black volcanic stone.  The light begins to play upon the golden fields of this land without much water.  The soft crunching of his old feet is heard long after the old Greek has disappeared.

The sounds of morning are in full concert now in KontaChora, a natural symphony.  The Greek sun warms my shared balcony here at Pension Anna, but the air is cold and fresh.  Dressed in long pants which have seen better days, an old worn sweater, and a dusty dark cap, the old Greek returns from the arroyo, leading his team of donkeys past the cubistic white buildings to my right.  I hear the clip-clop, clip-clop recede into the distance, back towards Fira.

A breath of soft warm wind pushes its way from the south.  A catabolic wind born of Africa, this Sirocco brings with it a sudden moisture, driving away the mosquitoes which be me no good will, save the parting a few nightly pints of blood.  Small ants scurry beneath my feet, but do not bite.

The island of Anafi, which lies 80 degrees East of Kontachora, seems to disappear into the now golden seas, and then, reappear suddenly, as if pulled down and then pushed up by the hand of Poseidon, the old Greek god of ancient mythos.

Soft striations of wispy clouds reach out and grasp the morning light.  Echoing Homers rosy fingers of dawn, they turn from soft chartreuse to pink to deep salmon.

I am surrounded by flocks of small birds. I want nothing else than to reach out and fly with them.

Hunger suddenly gives wings to my feet.

I strap on my sandals and walk quietly past the doors of teenagers that have burnt the midnight oil, and consumed most of the wick as well.

I try once again begin the familiar ritual of starting my old motor scooters ancient two-stroke engine.  My mechanical steed has its quirks.  This morning, the old motorbike would give an old donkey pause to wonder.  I try the kick-start pedal while sitting on the bike.  This is how I begin the ritual.  Kick, kick, kick.  Nothing.  Silence is my reward.  Kick, kick, kick.  I dismount.  Standing by the bike, I place my right foot on the pedal.  Kick, kick, kick. Nothing!  Somehow, without explanation, it is always my left foot, and only while dismounted, that starts the engine.  One push and the old engine catches, and then revs highly beyond reason, catching up for lost time.  Holding onto the gnarly handlebars, I steady the bike. I imagine that the resulting cacophony can be heard for miles, echoing down corridors of igneous rock, far out to the sea.  Climbing upon my mechanical steed, I slip the moped into gear.  It jolts ahead with a mind of its own, carrying me down the bumpy road toward Theotokopoulos Square and the promise of strong coffee.

-Glenn Steiner, Greek Island Photography Workshops