Postcard from Tinos – X

Years from now, ask me what I remember about November 2015 and I will say, “The sea.” The riverless, rocky-bottomed clarity of it—visibility that on foggy days is better below the surface than above. Warm enough to invite, cool enough to invigorate. In the main port, on arrival, dragging my luggage, I got in only up to my knees. I have made up for that almost every day since, letting the island’s beaches and coves chart my hikes and my runs. I swam frequently in Panormos Bay, ringed by a fishing village, boats bobbing on their moorings. I swam, too, where the surfers go, a beach town completely shuttered for the offseason. I swam in a bay noted for its protection from the north wind—on the day the wind blew from the west, the only time I found both rolling surf and sandy shores and could ride the waves in. I swam on a remote and romantic beach where, while I dried in the sun, a gecko startled us both by climbing into my lap. I swam at the bottom of long, switching roads that worked hard to get down to the sea and at the mouth of broad valleys, the ends of dormant but once powerful rivers. On beaches of near silt, from massive slabs of stone, and on all the grades of rock, gravel, and coffee grounds in between. In the north, across from hulking Andros Island; in sight of Syros to the west; to the south, facing Mykonos; and in the east, where Tinos fronts only open water. I swam looking up at great striated bluffs still warm with the afternoon sun, and within sight of man-made façades, the rectilinear precipices of harvested marble. Just offshore of old stone mills and abandoned pits and entirely active quarries. In coves crying out for a Hardy Boys mystery—all smuggler’s caves and hidden inlets and mysterious crags. I dived into the sea from crumbling piers abandoned decades ago and leapt off jutting cliffs carved millennia past. And I swam in a steep canyon where the currents collect all the flotsam within many kilometers. If someone drowned, the locals said, this is where they’d find the body. No bodies other than my warm one, but I did find a pair of still-inflated inner tubes. On that day, I floated as well as swam.