It is quiet. Quieter than quiet. Even in Koronisia it has never been so quiet. We are in the middle of the second Greek lockdown, a curfew has been imposed and it is almost winter. But the silence doesn’t bother me. On the contrary, I enjoy it more and more. I can hardly imagine that I have been able to live without silence all these years.
It is still dark when the first fisherman leaves the harbor. Its crackling single cylinder brutally awakens us from a deep sleep. Just for a moment, because soon the silence returns and we slowly descend back to dreamland.
When a little later the sun shows its first twilight, the village dogs start their joint howling concert. Captain Jack and sailor Sammie hardly react to it anymore. They know the routine. It is late, around half past seven. Get up or sleep a little longer? The mornings are cold, so I pull the blankets over my ears for a little while longer.
Five minutes later we get out anyway. I quickly get dressed and go out with Jack and Sammie for their morning round. Ron meanwhile makes coffee. Then it is time for me to get bread and vegetables. Fortunately, in Koronisia there’s no Black Friday with shopaholic mobs. The only form of crowding you’ll find here is a handful of people gathered around the baker’s van and the greengrocer’s, both of whom are passing by today. There are no shops here anyway. For the nearest minimarket, Ron occasionally cycles 9 miles on his rickety folding bike to the next hamlet, Vigla. And another 9 miles back of course. To the amazement of the owners of the minimarket, who invariably give him something to drink and snack. Or we give a shopping list to Alida of SY Frya, when she drives with Michael from the tavern Mare Mare to a real supermarket in the nearest town of Arta.
When I return with the groceries Ron meanwhile has hung the handwashed laundry to dry. Now it is time for our breakfast and a long walk with the whole crew. With the Greek lockdown rules, it is quite a challenge to get on the road: sending text messages with the reason for our departure and gather our identification documents and face masks. Allthough today the latter is not really necessary, because we have the beach all to ourselves again. Total calm leaves a smooth sea as a mirror to the sky, with Sammie and an assertive crab as the only disturbers in this beautiful still life.
The world seems to stand still here. The Netherlands seems so far away. I try to imagine life in our old hometown, Nijmegen. There it was never quiet, not even in the beautiful nature reserves around it. There was always the sound of a car, a moped, people talking or children playing. We were never alone. Here I now only hear the croaking, frog-like sound of a large group of flamingos. I always try to capture their elegant appearance on photo, but usually they are just too far or too fast. It doesn’t matter. I’ll try again tomorrow.
For the first time in our now more than 3.5 years long sea wanderer’s life, it also seems it will be a quiet Christmas for us. All the rules surrounding COVID-19 make traveling by ferry and train passing through 5 countries virtually impossible, regardless of whether it is a wise thing to do. So this year, no days full of travel stress with our two dogs, no reunion with family and friends in the Netherlands, but Christmas in a silent Koronisia. Silent, but not alone. We are together with our friends from SY Frya and the people of the village who never forget to slip us a bag of freshly picked citrus fruits.
With the start of the meteorological winter, the Greek autumn has erupted in full force. The rain doesn’t seem to stop anymore. A few fishermen are still sailing, but otherwise the streets are deserted. Strong wind and total calm alternate. In the Netherlands we call this foul weather ‘dog weather’, but our dogs certainly don’t like it. They simply refuse to go outside. I wait for a small hitch in the torrent of rain and then quickly take them with me, but before the end of the jetty the gates of heaven completely open again. Jack and Sammie run back to our Coco and settle themselves on the couch in front of the stove.
The next night I lie awake. It’s around three. It is quiet again. Completely silent. I lie awake listening to the silence. Suddenly I hear them again. The croaking flamingos. It’s so quiet I can even hear them in our boat. The gentle easterly wind carries their twittering over water and beach all the way in our direction.
Suddenly I know for sure: there’s nothing as beautiful as the silence. Or as the Chinese philosopher Lao-Tse put it long ago: the greatest revelation is the silence. And he is right. Open yourself to the silence and a world will open up for you.