Aegean Shores


I first heard of the Metochi study center on a dark, wet November afternoon in the cafeteria at the University of Agder. Sleet smeared the great windows, afternoon was already indistinguishable from midnight.

To get to Metochi one must travel an "unnamed road" according to the Google map on my i-phone. The dirt road winds for kilometers through stands of tall grasses, cucumber and tomato and pepper fields, and pear and pomegranate orchards, on a flat plane. Monks have walked this path for 500 years. Generations of olive-tending peasants in need of medicine, and pilgrims seeking spiritual succor also added their centuries of footsteps to the grooves in the rocky dry soil.

The van dumped me off at the end of the unnamed road. Up a steep little hill, and through a stone archway, I passed under a second, living arch, a giant fig tree, its trunk planted in the ground, apparently rooted there for a very long time, rising and then bending a great bough of leaves and green fruit over the entrance. Cats lolled here and there, eying me, tails switching. At the far end of the courtyard, I spied the tables and benches where we would eat al fresco, arranged under a gazebo laced with thick old grapevines heavy with bunches of green grapes. Just over a stone wall and down below the tables was an orchard of pomegranates and pears. Small and large stone urns nurtured bushes of rosemary and basil, their scent filled the night air.

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