"You really must call into Ithaca on your way to Athens from Italy;" the advice of s friend proffered in 1976. A 25 year-old from Antipodes, intent on seeing Europe, consulted her map. That tiny speck on the wrong side of Greece? No, that couldn't: possibly warrant cutting days off time allocated to important seats of culture.
Strange quirks of fate, twenty-two years later, have wound themselves together to bring that name Antipodean to live on the tiny island on the wrong side of Greece. Where day-to-day life is enormously satisfying, frustrating, impossibly difficult and peaceful. Despite usual traumas encountered in learning a new language, a new way of thinking, schooling young children in a second language and in coping with the seeming Impossibilities of a contorted Set of laws and bureaucracies, here is to be found a depth of inner peace I continuously wonder a
Mind you, our intention was to spend just two years on Ithaca, building a holiday home, and holidaying. Understandably, Ithacan emigrants of the 1890's and 1950's felt the pull of their birthplace. But I have no blood ties to Greece and my birthplace is a hemisphere away. What holds me? And what is it that brings the same tourists to Ithaca, year after year, so that they are now part of our tiny community, albeit for a short time each year?
Every day in every Season, my island's clear light gives me colors - concerts of sunbeams, shades and shadows outside my kitchen window, across the olive groves to the bay and its limestone cliffs. I wake to the symphony of goat and sheep bells as the animals graze beneath the terrace.
I cannot consider life without the pungent smells of wild herbs, carpets of unnamed wildflowers, naturalized irises, narcissus and cyclamens, or the salt sea spray brought in by the 4pm sea breeze. Only on Ithaca is my every sense invaded by this vast array of experiences.
Our need to remain has been tested. As the bulldozers tore the first Scar through the little hilltop vineyard that was to become the house yard for a bewildering array of children's attire - bicycles, cats, rabbits and various paraphernalia - building materials and mother's rose garden ("Don't go near mom's roses!"), our local museum curator and archaeological department's watchdog introduced herself to tell us that the building must stop. Did we not know that our foundations were being dozed through a site that was highly likely to be the very rite of Ulysses castle? This, I thought, was an unfairly stiff challenge for a first one!
However, from one such challenge to another, we continued. The heat of a summer, living in a hut under an olive tree diffused itself into a cooler autumn. A Severe storm wrecked our hut and so winter we spent in an old house the village. A total dearth of labor saw us building our house with only four hands. All this was only our first year! After 18 months, we celebrated moving into the part of the house that would become our guest rooms.
About this time it dawned on us that our two-year plan needed an extension. It was also becoming clear that funds brought with us were depleting rapidly, and it was even more obvious that the builder/restaurateur of the family did not see himself pursuing either of his occupations on Ithaca.