Postcard from Tinos – VIII

The best thing about Tarampados is not the dovecotes. The signs and maps lured me here with the dovecotes—though a few of them used the sturdier but less romantic translation “pigeon houses.” There is a dovecote near Pyrgos and I do enjoy watching the flock of doves burst from the roof, curl out over the valley and settle again, dynamic and predictable in the same instant, but it never occurred to me to get excited about their house. Dovecotes here are whitewashed cubes, ten or twelve feet high, perched on steep hillsides. The dovecotes at Tarampados, at least right now, have no explosive and serene doves. But they are on the hill opposite the village, which does help reveal their idiosyncrasy and charm. Dovecotes look out over their hills, so I typically see them from behind. On the front, though, the whitewashed cement gives way to grids of stonework, geometric patterns laid out with biscuits of rock. Herringbones and checks and crosses and diamonds. Even so, from the ledges of the village there are more interesting things to see than the intricate façades of the dovecotes. Behind me, the serrated summit of Mt. Exomvourgo is awash in alpenglow, its crags and crevices in high relief, painted salmon by the setting sun. Among the dovecotes, a farmer is burning brush, as people all over the island have been doing all day. It is a calm day, no sign of the winds that would make any fire hard to control, and even now smoke curls from many hillsides. But these are the first flames I’ve seen, huge orange wings flapping in the still evening air, stirring the rich, woody scent of autumnal warmth. Further up the hill, a weathered man wearing jeans, a gray tee shirt, and a gruff mustache is herding his sheep to high ground, perhaps toward the night’s shelter. He patiently circles them, waving his arms gently, making a noise like the absent wind, moving them forward without giving them any reason to spook. The lambs are remarkable mimics, trotting next to their mothers so closely, step for step, it looks as if someone’s darned them together. Perhaps there are pigeons already nestled down for the night in the dovecotes, but the farmer, the shepherd, and the sun all still have a little work to do, and I will stay and watch.