Before I left home, I made sure to update my mP3 player and download some new tracks and tunes to my music library to drown out potential situations such as crying babies, snoring plane-mates, and noisy terminals. Alas, earplugs or earbuds are indispensable in such an event!
But do not be deceived. To truly experience a place, one must experience its sounds as well as its sights. Few occasions have required music to stimulate my mind and senses here in this country where even stillness has its own melody, where even the air hints at a tune all its own.
Many people wake up to the blaring of an alarm clock, much like I did before life led me to Greece. Here, I awaken to the gentle bleating of sheep grazing in the nearby melon patch. The shepherd comes in the still moments of the morning to move them to a nearby pasture; he calls in a voice they know by heart, and they eagerly answer by trotting to him in delighted familiarity, joyous obedience. Fuzzed tails wagging as they gallop to him through the melon patch, they begin to baa zealously as if to say, “Wait for me! I’m coming, I’m coming!” The shepherd galvanizes them to hurry to the next pasture, the bells around their necks tinkling as they amble down the road, hooves padding softly down the winding road.
Morning greets me, and I welcome it by opening the doors and windows to bask in the incandescence of the morning sun and the downy-soft gusts of the wind. As I make my way downstairs and open the kitchen and living room windows, the only sound that meets my ears is the whispering of the leaves from the grape vineyard that sidles up against the stucco wall of the villa as they rustle in the Cretan breeze that blows inward from the sea.
From time to time, the cicadas chirp and chime in a relentless chorus in the age-old struggle to secure a mate; their vibrations permeate the isle with their hopeful song of romance while reminding Southern expats of the crickets and grasshoppers back home. Soon the birds begin a new harmony: swallows swoop in time to the buzzing of passing insects, finches and sparrows and other as-of-yet unidentified birds twitter from their hiding place among juicy clusters of dark red-black grapes, and hawks cry out overhead in triumph over the sky.
Then one day as I’m sitting on the lounger on the third floor balcony to evaporate into transparent bliss in a quiet peace all my own, a song floats up to my ears, draws me. I quietly get up and stealthily peek over the balcony wall to see a young Greek woman riding her bicycle up the sloping street to where the olive groves and the orchard grass meet on a curve that obliterates the path’s destination from onlookers. She hums a tune to herself, oblivious to my presence; her voice carries on the wind to my eager ears above. Simple and wordless in a chord of minor tonality, that tune still haunts my thoughts. I keep waiting for her to return and grace my hungry ears with her refrain.
Nature itself sings to me, allures me. So why would I need my trusty playlist here?
After all, the only thing to drown out is the beauty and the silence of the still moments that remind me who I am.